What is a pop up shop?

What is a pop up shop? It’s a temporary shop that can be used to test demand for a more permanent shop, or to bring attention back to a shop building that has been empty for some time, or to showcase a product. You can get a good feel for pop up shops in this article from the Independent.

My home town Bedford now has quite a few empty shops – most towns do these days. A combination of the recession, online shopping and the growth of out-of town retail parks have hit our town centres all at the same time, closing down many shops. The community group We Are Bedford have been using pop up shops as a way of bringing empty shops to life.

I love the whole concept of pop up shops for three reasons. Number one, it’s obvious that we need to reinvent our town centres – things are never going to return to the way they were pre-credit crunch because too much has changed. Second, it’s great that small businesses and communities are taking the lead in this reinvention because we are so often dominated by big brands. And third, it gives small businesses exposure that they haven’t had before.

This third reason is why I’m writing this post. Because I know lots of little home-based business owners who don’t stand a chance of renting a high street shop, but that could get together and try a pop up shop.

I keep hearing about the idea of pop up shops and I thought I’d share some articles and resources just in case you want to give one a go. Please do feel free to leave a comment and share what you know.

If you have any other examples of pop up shops or resources to help people thinking of setting one up, please do leave a comment below..

Hmm, that looks familiar…3 things you can do when you’re being copied

They say that imitation is the the sincerest form of flattery but it’s not much fun when someone is blatantly copying your business ideas. I hear frequently of mum-run businesses being copied, sometimes it’s a matter of someone being a little too inspired by another business but it can also be full-on plagiarism.

So what should you do when you find you’re being copied? Here are my tips:

1. Rise above it

I know, that’s easier said than done. But sometimes there’s not much else you can do. The great thing about starting a small business these days is that there are lots of low-cost, low risk business options available. The not-so-good thing is that in removing the barriers to entry, it’s been made easier for anyone to start a business. And that means it’s easier for you to be copied.

But just because someone copies you, it doesn’t mean that they are in any way as good as you. Or that your customers will be fooled by them, either. The chances are they’ll be a poor imitation at best, because the best person to implement your ideas is YOU. Plus you’ve got a head start on them!

2. Protect yourself

If you you have intellectual property that you’re considering protecting, you can find out more about copyright, patents and trademarks at the Intellectual Property office.

You can sometimes protect yourself in ways that don’t involve the law, too.  Most of us are nice people and want to support others, so if someone asks you all about your business and how you got started, you might be happy to give them quite a bit of detail. It can come as a shock if they then use all that information to set themselves up in competition to you. Now I’m not suggesting that you should be suspicious of everyone, that’s not a pleasant way to live your life, but be careful about giving too much away about your business.

Update, 8/5/13: Having experienced a few of my own copycats recently, I’m changing my approach at helenlindop.com compared to the one I’ve used here at Business Plus Baby:

  • I’m giving away less information openly on my blog and instead creating ‘meatier’ free training that you need to sign up to access such at twitterforbusiness.net. Some of it will still be free and the persistent copier will still be able to access it, but at least my work isn’t quite as open to all as it is at Business Plus Baby. By the way, this approach isn’t just to deter copycats, my main reason for doing it is that there’s more value in a goodtraining course than in a series of short blog posts.
  • I’m using formats that are harder to copy, for example audio and video. Yes, you can copy a video, but it’s harder to change a few words and pass it off as your own work with video than it is with an article.
  • I’m removing blatant copcats from my mailing lists. True, it’s not a bulletproof strategy, but at least I’m not emailing the copycat each time I create something new. 🙂

These examples are mostly going to apply to you if you’re selling training or information products, but I think it could also work for craft businesses. I know that the cake making business is swarming with copycats, some whom copy photos of cake designs and pass them off as their own. Why not put just a few photos openly on your website to show your expertise, then only make your full catalogue available to people who make contact with you? This could be an ordinary page of your website, just don’t link to it from your main site. You can make the url tricky to guess e.g. your site.com/bqthdgsgssuuj rather than yoursite.com/designs. Again, it’s not rock solid security, but at least you’re not handing your work to them on a plate. (Excuse the pun there!)

Some people are blatant copiers, others are just being cheeky or ignorant about intellectual property and what they can do with it. To deter those cheeky or ignorant types, it can pay to put watermarks on any photos of your products that you publish online. This makes it harder for them to re-publish photos of your products without the proper credit. This won’t stop the determined copier, unfortunately.

3. Strengthen your brand

One significant weapon you have against the copycats is a strong brand. You brand is much more than just a logo or colour scheme, it’s the personality of your business and how you communicate it. One of the great things about being a sole trader is that you can have a very unique and personal brand that nobody else can copy. That’s because your brand comes from YOU – and you’re an individual.

So when you’re faced with an imitator, think about what’s different and unique about your business. Then think about how you can express that more strongly in your graphics, copy, website, leaflets, customer service and even how you communicate on social media. Then get to work and spread that message far and wide so you stay ahead of your copycat.

You’re already better than them – widen the gap so they stay far behind you.

And if you’re not sure where inspiration stops and imitation begins, try this article The importance of being you in blogging, business and everything else by Prerna Malik.

If you enjoyed this post, why not make sure you stay in touch by joining  my mailing list? I’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Trust Yourself

Today I’d like to welcome guest blogger and life/business coach Grace Marshall. She’s also a rather good writer, which is why I’ve been wanting to feature her for a while now.

Enjoy!

For all those times when you bury yourself in research, in the hopes of feeling more confident. When you look to other people to make decisions for you. When you force yourself to do something you feel you ‘should’ and push aside the groan of your heart. When you sabotage your progress by second-guessing yourself.For all those times when you think, “Who am I, to think I can do this?”

I have two words. They are as much for me as they are for you.

Trust yourself.

Here’s why: Continue reading “Trust Yourself”

Four reasons why you should be selling things online!

Today’s guest post is from Hannah Jones, who set up her own eBay shop last year and is about to teach others to do the same in her 31 Days 2 an Online Retail Business course.

You may be thinking I’m nuts to post an article about this course in the same week that I launched my own e-book Start your own online shop, but I’m not! Start Your Own Online Shop is a concise ‘how to’ guide and 31 Days 2 is a much more in depth course, so I think the two could complement each other nicely. Plus 31 Days 2 focuses in on the online marketplaces (eBay, Etsy, Amazon) whereas my ebook also looks at setting up your own website.

Over to you, Hannah!

Whether you’re still looking for the business venture which will make your family more comfortable, or thinking about ways to supplement your income to make sure you always have that extra bit of money, it’s worth considering starting an online business selling on websites like eBay, Amazon, and Etsy.  I love selling online, and I could go on for days about all of the things I love about it. But, for the sake of keeping Helen’s blog readable, here are four of the big reasons why you should start an online retail business today! Continue reading “Four reasons why you should be selling things online!”

How to stay balanced as a home-based small business owner

When you first started your home-based small business, you probably imagined how great it was going to be to be your own boss, how much freedom you were going to have, and how comfortable it was going to be to work from home. After a few months, you probably came to the realization that it takes a whole lot of work to run a successful, home-based small business, and the stress probably set in. If you’re committed to the success of your business, you’re not only going to have to work hard. You’re also going to have to take care of yourself properly because your business is only going to be healthy if you stay healthy, both mentally and physically.  Here are some of the things you can do to stay balanced as a home-based small business owner:

1. Only work in one section of your home.

Ideally, you should be working in some kind of home office, a room with a desk, chair, and a desktop computer. All you should do in that room is work, and you shouldn’t work in any of the other rooms of your house. Why? It’s difficult to separate your home life from your work life if you work in all areas of your house. At the end of the day, you should shut off your computer, and go spend some time with your family. If your laptop’s open on the couch, you’re more likely to get distracted by all the things you need to do for your business. It’s easier to maintain a healthy work/life balance if you don’t associate all areas of your home with work.

2. Stick to a schedule

As previously mentioned, at the end of the day, you should shut your computer off and spend the evening with your loved ones. It’s difficult to do this if you don’t have a set schedule. For instance, you might want to dedicate the hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to working each day. As a small business owner, you may not be able to just work 8 hours a day, but you do have the power to make room in your schedule in the evening for yourself and your loved ones.

3. Set realistic goals

When you own your own business, you don’t have a boss setting goals for you. You set your own goals. And, if you’re self-motivated, you probably set a lot of goals for yourself. It’s important to step back sometimes when you feel overwhelmed and reassess your goals. You can’t do a million things every day, and you can’t make a million dollars every day. Be realistic about the amount of work you’re able to put in and what type of results you’ll see.

Running your small business from home isn’t always everything you dreamed of, but it can be quite rewarding as long as you take care of yourself and keep your cool!

Author’s Bio: Carolyn is a guest blogger on the subjects of small business management, small business tools, and order management in the ecommerce industry that involves Shopify, 3dcart, and BigCommerce.

Image: zirconicusso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net