Your small business pop-up shop: the ultimate staffing guide

A small business pop-up shop is an exciting way to grow your business. But how do you get started? How do you hire? Do the risks outweigh the benefits? We’ll review it all, including how to keep organized as you expand your space and team, and how to use tools to turn you into a pop-up pro. 

What is a pop-up shop?

A pop-up shop is a temporary business that’s established for a limited amount of time, typically ranging from a few days to a couple of months, sometimes shorter.

Pop-ups create a new way to experience a business or offering, and depending on the style of pop-up, can create feelings of urgency, exclusivity, or simply just add a dose of unexpected fun into a customer’s day.

Pop-up shops aren’t just for retailers, either. They can be executed for restaurants and even salons—just make sure it’s not a windy day. Speaking of the weather, they don’t have to be outside, either.

Pop-up shops can take over a physical space, like an old office or vacant storefront, shopping malls, or mobile set-ups like storage containers or food trucks. Sometimes pop-up shops are completely new and independent businesses. Other times, they’re offshoots of an already successful business. When that’s the case, they’re often branded and promoted to make them stand out, so people can associate them with the original business and share their experiences using tools like social media. 

Pop-up shops for small business

Pumped about pop-ups but think your business might be too small? Think again.

Pop-up shops come in all shapes and sizes, including for small businesses. Here are just a few examples to help you start thinking outside of the shop:

  • A gourmet sausage restaurant organizing a pop-up shop in the form of a quirky hotdog stand outside of sports arena
  • A boutique women’s clothing store planning a Mother’s Day pop-up shop at a special preloved market
  • A groomer with a mobile dog spaw who travels to new cities for quick cuts and washes

See what we mean? Pop-up shops aren’t just for the big box stores who are looking to add a bit of creativity to their brand. Businesses of all sizes can get creative and open up shop outside of their normal location or product offering. 

Benefits for small business pop-up shops

Small business pop-up shops are filled with benefits—almost as many as the goods they’re selling. Here are just five perks that will have you running out the shop door to scout your future pop-up shop location for your business. 

1. You can test out new things

Pop-up shops are great for testing out new things that you might want to introduce to your business. And when we say “new things”, we don’t just mean a new line of products.

Use a pop-up shop to test new menu items—the world is still waiting for the next cronut, FYI—or a fancy new slogan update for your business. You can even test out marketing ideas to see how intrigued your customers become by your new strategy and tactics.

Testing before implementing a change gives you the ability to try something without a huge investment. Plus, you get direct feedback from customers and even a few opinionated passersby. 

Who knows, they might even give you your next idea to test out. 

2. Pop-up shops can be cost effective

Looking for a way to expand your business but not sure if you’re ready to commit to a specific location and the costs that come with it? You might want to try a pop-up shop, which can be a lot more affordable than opening a permanent space.

If you’re exploring a physical space for your pop-up, like a vacant storefront, you might get to take advantage of lower rental costs, shorter leases, and an overall reduced investment in the space, like fixtures, decor, and branding.

Plus, you’re not signing a multi-year lease in a location that you’re uncertain of. You know, like that neighbourhood that’s been “up-and-coming” for the past 10 years, but hasn’t seen its overly-promised progress. (Yeah, that one.)

3. Show off your shop

Once you’ve got your pop-up shop up and running, get ready for the buzz it can generate.

Small business pop-up shops are all about surprise and creativity. When your customers spot your shop and get a sense of what you’re offering, they’re likely to share the goods. That means the media might, too.

The press is always looking for a story. So providing a hint to your favorite reporter or influencer about your pop-up beforehand can be a good idea.

The exposure that you’ll get from customers and the visibility of being in a different spot can be a big boost to brand awareness, helping you reach a wider audience which can lead to new customers and hopefully, new sales. 

4. Add agility to your list of expertise

Small businesses know that in order to thrive, you need to get—and grow—with the times. That means being responsive to new trends and consumer demands.

The pandemic was a great testament to this. We saw donut shops adding walk-thru windows to their storefronts and witnessed cafés as they transformed into bottle shops to sell local wines along with their flakey croissants. 

A pop-up shop is a version of this agility. It shows customers that you can adapt to their wants and needs. Yes, even the ones that are a bit superficial, like an Instagram-worthy backdrop to add to their grid or a cute place to film their next reel.

5. Collaboration

Small businesses are better together, at least when pop-ups are involved.

Pop-up shops allow small business owners to collaborate with each other and form partnerships. By joining forces for the experience, they can reach one another’s customer base and offer a unique experience.

An example of collaboration could be a winery and artist pairing up to take over a vacant storefront and turn it into an immersive gallery and bar. They could host an opening night, and continue the event on weekends for a few weeks.

With this collaboration, the winery gets access to the artist’s network and the artist gets a place to show off their work to wine lovers and passersby. Both win, including the customers—wine and art just fit together, you know? 

Pop-up shop challenges for small businesses 

Pop-up shops are great for growing your brand and business, but they come with their own set of challenges. Below are five pop-up shop challenges for small businesses that will help you add a dose of reality to your pop-up plans—and not to burst your pop-up bubble, but to help you plot out your plan for success. 

1. Finding the right location

Location, location, location. It’s important when one of the main goals of a pop-up shop is to be seen. But finding the right location is more than knowing about the hot-spots of your town or city.

As a small business owner, you’ve got to think about the cost of location, its feasibility, and what you need to do to properly take over the space. In addition, you’ll need to make sure your workers can get there.

For your employees, consider transit routes, parking, as well as access and convenience for the actual set up and tear down of your pop-up shop, plus any components of it. For example, if your pop-up shop is in an alleyway off of a popular downtown strip, your cycling employees might be able to get there easily, but what about the workers who are responsible for delivering and executing the construction of your shop? Make sure that they’re able to do their jobs correctly, and with ease.

Pop-up shop tip: If you already know details about the space you’re taking over, consider leaving notes for workers so they’re fully briefed on their shift and what to expect. 

2. Organization

Organization can be a big challenge with pop-up shops, even beyond the question of “where does this box go?”.

Organizational challenges come with the territory of running a business and an extra location, and can include managing inventory, point-of-sale systems, scheduling, and promotions. To put it simply: there’s a lot to take care of.

Fortunately, there are lots of tools to help with organization, too. From organizing shifts and the who’s and what’s of your pop-ups all the way to calculating who worked when and where, online tools and software can keep your entire team organized.

For example, software that includes a messaging service, like Homebase, can help your employees communicate and touch base during shifts. If an employee needs to run to the bank to do a drop off, they can send a quick note to another coworker alerting them of their absence, or asking someone to cover.

The same goes for shift swapping. If a teammate is double booked or has a conflict, they can message coworkers on the app to see if they can coordinate a cover. This keeps everything in one place, and can be seen and tracked by the manager.

3. Scheduling 

Scheduling can be chaotic, especially when you add in another location or a pop-up. Coordination can get complicated, and things can go missed—including shifts.

On top of missed shifts, you might end up realizing that your pop-up is missing a few key ingredients, too. The most important? Workers.

Scheduling requires having the right amount of people available to work the amount of shifts needed. If you’re short workers, you might end up booking overtime hours, running into labor law issues, and even budget issues. 

4. Marketing your pop-up

“Don’t tell anyone, but we’re organizing a pop-up!”

While, yes, pop-ups come with an element of surprise, they should still be promoted.

Small business owners need to create awareness of their event so they can attract customers to their pop-up shop, but this can be hard when you’ve got a limited budget. Luckily, there are free marketing tools to help. To keep the numbers down, get creative.

Develop a media plan where you pitch your pop-up to local news outlets so they can tell the story for you. Have a summer employee who moonlights as an influencer? Ask them if your pop-up could be the right fit for their own brand and collaborate on a post or two.

Partnering with other small businesses is another good way to spread the word to various audiences, and like we mentioned above, location helps, too.

5. After the pop-up

So, you had a successful pop-up—now what?

Do you plan another one? Open a permanent location? Keep the extra workers you hired? What about the employees who transitioned to a summer under a shop tent and want the pop-up to continue? 

This is one of the challenges of a pop-up shop: the “what’s next.”

But before you start the evaluation, congratulate yourself. You took a chance and grew! Hopefully, your business learned from it, too. Which brings us to the next part: assessment.

Once your pop-up shop has wrapped up, you and your staff might be feeling emotional and maybe even a bit burnt out. Make sure you give you and your team the time you need to rest and get back to your regular work routine.

Once that happens, you can post-mortem on your pop-up shop to assess its success, and even the mistakes made along the way. For example, did you need more time for morning setups or evening tear downs? Were Thursday’s typically understaffed? Did team morale drop during your busy shifts? How did you build it back up?

You can take the lessons of a pop-up shop and bring them into your everyday business. Or, host another! Whatever you learnt can be applied to that one, too. 

How to hire pop-up shop employees 

Ready to hire for your pop-up shop? Read this before you start posting ads for your gig.

The first step in hiring for your pop-up shop is determining if you actually need to hire in the first place. For example, maybe you have enough employees at your regular location that can split their time between both spots. Or perhaps the season is slow—which is why you’re opting for a less-than-traditional way to serve customers to begin with. Maybe you already have the right amount of workers to transition between spaces. 

By knowing more about the roles you’ll need and already have, the customers you’ll be reaching, and the times you’ll be connecting with them, you’ll get a better sense of who to hire, and for how long.

Writing a pop-up shop job description

If you’ve determined that yes, you do need to hire, it’s time to create a job description. You can create your own or start with pre-written, customized descriptions for the roles you need filled. 

Make sure the descriptions are clear, outlining the roles, responsibilities, qualifications, and duration of the role. You’ll want to make it clear that this may be a temporary position. However, if you have plans to transition workers from the pop-up into permanent hourly staff, note that, too. This is important for workers who may be students, or only available for a limited amount of time. 

Once the job description is ready, advertise it. Use online job boards and ask your employees to spread the word to their networks. Leverage social media platforms to post job listings to your account, and also to connect with community groups who can advertise on your behalf.

If you use a service like Homebase, you’ll be able to post and review resumes all within the app. Plus, you’ll be able to schedule your interviews the same way. When you’re reviewing applicants, use a list of screening questions to make sure they meet your requirements, and ensure they meet the fit for the specific role.

For example, when hiring for a pop-up shop, you might want someone who is more outgoing and personable, and can hold a conversation. You may also want someone who can lift heavy objects or work in a more physically-demanding role.

Once you’ve hired your workers—whether they were existing employees or new—make sure they’re properly onboarded and trained for their specific roles. Even if they’re existing employees who have transitioned into working at your pop-up shop, you’ll still need to provide them with the appropriate training for their new gig.

When everyone is hired and ready to work, make sure you collect ongoing feedback about the process and the work that’s being completed. This can help you ensure workplace satisfaction, even if that workplace is a temporary pop-up.

How to manage pop-up shop employees 

Managing pop-up shop employees is critical to the success of your pop-up. Here are four tips to get the most out of the experience, and your employees. 

Provide proper training

Training isn’t just for full-time or permanent employees. Workers who are running your pop-up shop need the proper onboarding and training, too.

Start the training process with an orientation, welcoming new staff and introducing them to the environment. Have them meet their coworkers, and introduce your products and any operational processes, like set-up or clocking in and out.

You’ll want to make sure all workers are equipped with the knowledge and passion about what you’re offering, and feel comfortable with asking questions about how things work, features, benefits, pricing, and more. 

Pop-up shop tip: Set new hires up with a buddy so they have someone they can communicate with about questions, culture, and general ins-and-outs of the business. 

Optimize the schedule

Scheduling your workers is key for happy employees and a well-staffed pop-up. But this can be tough, especially if you’re not familiar with your location, are launching a new product, or are unsure of your customer base.

You can start by prioritizing key shifts, and identifying when you think you’ll need the most staff. For instance, if you’re hosting a floral pop-up shop, mornings to early afternoons on the weekends might be busiest, when people are out running errands and have some time to stop and smell the roses.

Knowing which workers are more flexible than others can also be helpful when identifying on-call employees, or filling less-than-desirable shifts. 

Ensure strong communication

Strong communication is important on a variety of levels. It’s about how your employees talk to each other, to customers, how you speak to them, and how everyone understands what’s being said—or in some cases, read.

Strong communication also includes being organized and streamlined. You’ll want to make sure that everyone is using the same tools to review and respond to information, like policies, and shift changes. Being in sync can help prevent missed communications, missed shifts, or mishaps with customers. 

Use the right time clocking tools

You’ve got employees showing up, clocking-in, taking breaks, and leaving for the day—but, they’re not at your shop. You might assume this poses a problem for tracking time, but rest assured, there are tools to help.

Like GPS enabled time tracking tools, for example. These tools track hours for on-site and field teams, like your pop-up employees. They can be used by small businesses to verify clock-in locations, snap photos, and you can assign unique PINs to avoid time theft and buddy punching.

Use Homebase to manage your pop-up shop staff

Now that you know the ins-and-outs of organizing a pop-up shop, you’re likely aware that you might need help managing it. And don’t worry—we’re not adding another hire to your list. We’re talking about free software that helps you find the right people to hire, onboard them, track their time, performance and feedback, and pay them, too. You guessed it: Homebase.

Designed for small businesses—and their pop-ups—Homebase works with you to manage all the operational stuff that’s tedious, time consuming, and sometimes just downright confusing.

When it comes to pop-ups, Homebase can support scheduling mayhem using one easy app to build, share, and optimize scheduling, even for on-call and temporary workers.

Here’s a glimpse into how Homebase’s online scheduling software works. First, it’s online, which means that the schedules you build are stored on the internet. Homebase’s cloud-based software gives your employees access from any device and in-real time. You can also update in-real time and from any location, which is perfect for the employee who got lost on their way to your top-secret pop-up.

Once you’ve got schedules in control, you can start managing time more efficiently. Homebase’s online time clocks work with you to track your employees’ working hours electronically. Simply turn almost any device with an internet connection (like a browser, tablet, or phone) into a sophisticated employee time clock, and finally throw out those paper-time cards. Let’s be honest: they would have been lost during your pop-up anyway. 

Is your pop-up a raging success and you need to hire more teammates? Homebase is here to help. Homebase lets you find and onboard new employees all in one place, and supports interviewing, onboarding, policy creation, and even employee handbooks.

Last but not least, communication support. Keep things open and transparent when you track praise, trade notes, swap shifts, and record it all with Homebase’s free communication app. This tool is ideal for employees who need to chat with teammates or their boss, but don’t want to share phone numbers. Plus, it keeps everything all in one place—even when your business isn’t. 

Small business pop-up shop FAQ

What is a pop-up shop?

A pop-up shop is a temporary business that’s established for a limited amount of time. Timeframes for pop-ups can be anywhere from a few days to a few months, and sometimes less.

Pop-ups offer a new and relevant way to experience a business or offering. Depending on how it’s executed, it can create feelings of urgency, exclusivity, or simply just add a dose of unexpected fun into your customer’s day.

What are the benefits of a pop-up shop for small businesses?

Pop-up shops offer several benefits for small businesses. They give small business owners the chance to test out new ideas, including products, menu items, and even slogans. This testing allows for experimentation without a huge investment. It also provides direct and valuable feedback from customers.

Small business pop-up shops are also cost-effective. They can come with lower rental costs, shorter leases, and reduced investment in space and fixtures compared to more permanent locations.

Pop-up shops are a great way to boost the profile of a small business, and can generate buzz and exposure, and ideally, sales.

Lastly, pop-up shops can encourage collaboration among small business owners and entrepreneurs, allowing them to build out their customer bases and offer unique experiences to new audiences.

How can small businesses effectively manage pop-up shop staff?

To effectively manage pop-up shop employees, provide the proper training they need to be knowledgeable and confident in their roles. This means conducting an orientation session to introduce them to the environment, coworkers, products, and operational processes. 

When it comes to staffing up your pop-up shop, optimizing the schedule. Do this by identifying key shifts based on expected customer demand, then prioritize staffing accordingly. 

Maintaining strong communication is also important for effective management. Be sure to promote open communication, and the tools to support it. 

To manage shifts and to efficiently track time, use appropriate time clocking tools, such as GPS-enabled time tracking. These tools can help ensure compliance, prevent time theft, and enable remote clock-ins for field teams like your pop-up shop employees.

Is your small business planning a pop-up, or just thinking about one? Get Homebase for easy scheduling, time clocks, payroll, messaging, HR, compliance, and more—all in one app. Get started for free.

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