WHEN it comes to retail therapy, Cape Town lifestyle entrepreneur Pia Easterbrook has got it down to a fine art. If anyone knows how to create a unique and special retail experience it’s Pia. Her pop-up business, Pia’s Pop-Ups, is legendary in the Mother City – and in Joburg, too – and her customers know they’re in for a treat when she hosts an event. The good news is that the next one is around the corner. Save the deets : Wednesday 27 September at The Pavilion at Kelvin Grove Club, Newlands, from 10 am to 7 pm! Here she spills the beans on how it all comes together – and how she balances her business with being a devoted mom and wife …
Q: First things first: give us a sneak preview please of what will be on offer at the pop-up?
It’s the first time I’ve had a pop-up outside my home so I’m very excited. It means I can extend the shopping hours until 7 pm and also cater for working women and moms who are on-the-go! At this pop-up you can expect a variety of lovely Proudly South African merchandise, including stunning clothing ranges by SugarTongTong, Malok, Sitting Pretty, Desperate Mama, Ballerini Cashmere, swimwear from TracyB Swimwear (summer is coming!), handmade jewellery by Susan von Zahn Jewellery and Bliss, artisanal produce including award-winning confectionery from the inimitable Sally Williams, limited-edition wines from Carrol Boyes Wines (the labels are beautiful!), exquisitely crafted wooden lifestyle products from coco africa, fine stationery and paper products from To the Moon and Back …. and much more!
Q: Take us back to the beginning. How did Pia’s Pop-Ups start?
I have always worked in sales and marketing. When my daughter, Georgie, was born in 2005 (we were living in Johannesburg at the time) I took a sabbatical. When I felt ready to take on something new, I started collaborating with a friend, Sally Sidenberg, who imported children’s clothes which she sold in South Africa. We went on fun trips together – mostly to America and the UK – and I sold the merchandise from my home in Johannesburg. The pop-up shop was born! That’s really how it all began.
I then bought into a clothing business with my friend, Trudi Pryde, which manufactured children’s pyjamas. They were designed in Singapore and made in Joburg. I managed the production process and sold the pyjamas from my home. I then started doing pop-ups to sell the pyjamas and it grew from there – people starting asking me to sell their jewellery or their clothing at my pop-ups … and before I knew it my house had turned into a shop as I had merchandise everywhere!
In fact, the son of one of my friends once asked his mom, ‘Why is Pia’s house trying to be a shop?!’
Then in 2013 everything changed: we moved back to Cape Town and Trudi and I sold the business. It was time! A week later Georgie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She was 8 at the time. She’d had the classic symptoms: she was always thirsty, lethargic and tired. Managing her illness was a big adjustment. For the next year we got used to the new normal. She requires care 24/7 and it involves getting up in the middle of the night to test her sugar etc. It’s a tough road.
A year later I did another trip with Sally to New York. I was still keen on pop-ups but with Georgie’s diagnosis I could no longer travel. So I turned my attention to the local market and found a wack of fabulously creative people in Cape Town. I didn’t have to travel: I had so much talent to explore right here on my doorstep. I started by doing jewellery pop-ups and then it grew from there. Now Pia’s Pop-Ups features clothing, jewellery, homeware, gifts, artisanal sweets … the sky is the limit.
Q: How do you select your vendors? How can you be sure their merchandise is going to sell?
I love beautiful things! They don’t have to be expensive, but I have to really love something to feature it at my pop-ups. So I choose my vendors very carefully: their merchandise must be well-made and the costing must be realistic. And they must be nice people!
Q: There is nothing ordinary about a Pia’s Pop-Ups event – they’re retail therapy at its best! How do you ensure you’re ahead of the pop-up pack?
I go all out to ensure my shoppers have a great experience, that it’s a special outing for them. So I am there to greet them when they walk through the door, and to offer them a glass of wine or bubbly. I also have light snacks, and I always have flowers at my venue too. Attention to detail is important. It’s all about creating a special feel for clients – many of whom have become firm friends. I make sure there is a security guard if necessary, toilet paper, towels and lovely hand cream in the cloak room – it’s all about planning an event down to the last T.
People tell me they feel like they’ve been on holiday when they’ve been to one of my pop-ups – and that’s just the best compliment!
Please explain the business nitty-gritty?
I source the products and then approach people to sell at my pop-ups. I charge vendors a table hire which is paid upfront as security, an incidentals fee and then commission on sales. When I am sourcing vendors, I also source a suitable venue. I used to have my pop-ups at home but my husband grew tired of the house being strewn with my stock! I also often have a partner for a specific pop-up. I work in a very structured way and I look for merchandise that is different. I also don’t feature the same vendors at every pop-up. Closer to the time, I’ll work out the floor plan and match vendors. I also work with a social media expert to promote the event as it draws near.
What mistakes have you made along the way?
Being too generous! I’ve learnt the hard way that people will grab whatever they can get. In the beginning I didn’t charge vendors table hire, and then people would book a table and not pitch …. you live and you learn!
What do you love most about your hobby-turned-business?
Firstly I just love the flexibility. I can be with my daughter (and my husband!) when she needs me. As a family, we have had to adjust to her diagnosis and have made the best of it. Georgie, who is in Grade 6 at Rustenburg Girls’ School, regulates her own insulin (she has an insulin pump that’s inserted in her body). She is really fortunate that we can afford the best care. I do a lot of charity work in the diabetic community and my daughter is very lucky. The other reasons why I love what I do? It’s a fabulous creative outlet for me, and it keeps me in touch with people and with trends. It has also opened up a lot of opportunities For example, I am travelling again! I am so grateful.
Last question: how do you have fun?
I work when I work and I play when I play! I do a weekly hike with friends – we’re called the Camino Chicks – and a cooking class with my mother-in-law, Gerti Easterbrook. I also do pilates with Dominic.
Thank you, Pia! Be sure to catch Pia’s Pop-Ups on 27 September from 10 am to 7 pm at The Pavilion at Kelvin Grove. Follow Pia on Facebook so that you can #shopthepop.