TechTown, a business innovation hub, is historically known for the program support they provide to Detroit’s tech-based entrepreneurs, but they’ve now expanded and included a monthly retail pop-up space for businesses called The SHOP @ TechTown.
They are offering services to a variety of businesses and entrepreneurs with The SHOP, which is housed in a section of the first floor of their building. Entrepreneurs can avoid committing to a permanent space to do market research and get a sense of where customers are and aren’t coming from.
“The SHOP @ TechTown Detroit hosts a variety of fine goods from small businesses in TechTown’s Retail Boot Camp and SWOT City entrepreneurship programs, as well as other independent local retailers,” according to their website. “The SHOP is part of our mission to support neighborhood small businesses and the local economy.”
Businesses who have participated are typically those who have been vending in Eastern Market for a few seasons and have a following. Ruckus Taco Co. has had success at The SHOP @ TechTown so far, averaging 75 percent of returning customers and 25 percent of new customers every week.
“We heard about TechTown pop-ups through a friend that works there upstairs. She mentioned that we should check it out,” said Jeremy Kalmus of Ruckus Taco Co.
Kalmus said the opportunity was of interest to him because he thought it would be “valuable to hang out at a place that house so many entrepreneurs.”
He said he thought it would be a good opportunity to meet and connect with other small business owners and have another place to sell their tacos in an effort to get the Ruckus Taco Co. name out to the public.
“We have had a positive experience meeting other individuals that are also building businesses or maintaining larger businesses. Everybody is supportive of our efforts there and we have been able to build some business relationships,” Kalmus said.
“So before you get into a permanent brick-and-mortar situation you need to identify what you do, what you sell and why it matters and why people are going to buy it,” Donnelly said. “Pop-ups offer the opportunity to get exposure to a lot of different people that you might not otherwise have.”
Five years ago TechTown opened another avenue of service, called Blocks. The Blocks programming is about revitalizing the commercial corridors of the city “one store front at a time,” Donnelly said.
TechTown’s Blocks emphasizes job retention and job creation for the city and for the surrounding neighborhoods to have amenities and services. Offering support to existing brick-and-mortar businesses through one-on-one coaching for 6 to 12 months, TechTown combines development and start-up acceleration strategies in their SWOT City program. They also prepare serious entrepreneurs with strong retail concepts over the course of eight weeks for the successful launch of their brick-and-mortar business in a core Detroit commercial district through their Retail Boot Camp.
“It’s for businesses who want to launch in the city of Detroit in a brick-and-mortar setting,” Donnelly said.
The SHOP @ TechTown is a way for businesses to get exposure to all the topics they need to consider before opening up a brick-and-mortar space in the city. From branding to visual merchandising, pricing and inventory control, businesses need to understand the financial aspect of opening a space and The SHOP @ TechTown serves as a trial setup.
Some of TechTown’s SWOT and Retail Boot Camp success stories include House of Pure Vin on Woodward Avenue in Downtown Detroit and Third Wave Music on Cass Avenue.
TechTown recently opened The Cass Collective at Cass Avenue and Willis, which is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Six businesses reside in the space, most of which have participated in The SHOP, in addition to a rental conference room for special events and classes.
Students can catch Ruckus Taco Co. at The SHOP @ TechTown on Mondays at 11:30 a.m. The next pop up shop will be on May 19 at 11 a.m. For more information contact Sarah Donnelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.