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STARTUP

Selling the Stories Behind the Goods

In New York City, a new exhibition-slash-retail space is hoping to help fledgling businesses introduce their stories--and their products--to the public.
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Stories: everyone likes them. The classic rags-to-riches tale of an enterprising dreamer who works all hours to build her dream business is part of what makes start-up life such a compelling idea, and young, growing businesses get plenty of media mileage out of their human interest aspects, from working out of garages to quirky founders.

Entrepreneurs have long taken advantage of this appetite for the stories behind the goods and services their businesses offer with events like pop-up markets. Mike Maher of custom shirt maker Taylor Stitch, for example, told me his customers "want to hear the story. Where is this product made? What's it made out of?" To capitalize on this he throws "pop-up markets in San Francisco where I invite all of the makers, craftsmen, and independent designers and you then invite the customers to come meet those people and ask them those questions." Customers are pleased by the stories and Maher is pleased by the spike in sales.

But pop-up markets are temporary and, one would imagine, plenty of work to organize, so in New York City several start-ups are banding together to offer a more long-lived twist on the idea--what's called A Startup Store. A permanent exhibition and retail space for young businesses, the space gives start-ups a venue to introduce their stories and their products to the public. As Inc.com's Nicole Carter reports, the whole thing has the feel of a gallery, but the effect of a store:

One corner features perfume and moisturizer samples from cosmetics-subscription service Birchbox. In another corner, there are hangers, dustpans and other housewares from the innovative product company at Quirky, and in the back of the store, there's sparkly necklaces and bracelets on display from Bauble Bar, an accessories retailer. Each of the five start-up sections also comes with a sign that explain the story behind the founders and company. 

And as Springwise reports, following a first, six-week exhibition to take advantage of the holiday shopping rush:

The project plans to completely reinvent itself every four to six weeks with a completely different group of participating startups. “The environment, merchandise, events and story behind everything for sale will be different,” the project explains. On 2 February, A Startup Store will come out of beta and announce its permanent store name while also launching its next exhibition, which will be on the theme of love, it says.

Want a quick glimpse of what A Startup Store looks like in practice, as well as an introduction to the companies that participated in the first exhibition? Check out the video below:

Could a similar concept help nurture young businesses in your area?

IMAGE: Inc.
Last updated: Jan 25, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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