Welcome to my new column, Big City, Little Dog! I own Sam & Tasha LLC: Products for a Modern Pet Lifestyle, and in every issue my Maltese Hugo and I will do our best to bring the NYC doggie social scene to your door…or your screen, at least! He asked if we can talk about other things sometimes, too, like dog adoption, grooming tips, and traveling, and since he has me more or less wrapped around his paw, I said yes. We’ll also poke our heads into some of the best pet shops around, take a behind-the-scenes look at a trade show, and meet some of the people that make this industry so special.
To kick things off, let’s go back to November of 2010. Sam & Tasha signed on to participate in the Pets Popping Up Pop-Up Shop at the Roger Smith Hotel, or RS Pop Shop for short. The Roger Smith is located in midtown Manhattan, in a neighborhood that’s the perfect mix of New York locals and tourists from around the world. The hotel has been hosting a rotating pop-up shop since 2009, normally focusing on small fashion, jewelry, and handbag labels, but since they are a dog friendly hotel, a pet-themed pop-up seemed like a natural evolution for the space. Sam & Tasha, Stella & Chewy’s, Metro Paws, Sturdi Products, and Yeowww! Catnip all jumped at the chance to be involved, but the fun really started when the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals came onboard, and kindly offered to have adoptable cats and dogs on-site. Nothing brings people into a store quite like cute puppies! Overall, the RS Pop Shop was hugely successful, with the participating vendors donating nearly $1000.00 to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, and best of all, twenty animals ended up with new homes.
As a small business owner, I learned a lot from being involved in a month long pop-up shop, specifically, that one can’t just open the doors and hope people come in. A month is a long time, and events-within-events are key to keeping the buzz going. The genius PR companies responsible for organizing the event, Whitegate PR and Lion’esque Media, had a slew of things planned that helped attract shoppers straight off the street. Between weekly parties for each brand, radio segments, and a consistent stream of content on Facebook and Twitter, they got a great “word of mouth” going in the doggie community. I don’t own a brick and mortar pet business, but if I did, I’d definitely think about mimicking some of these ideas if I was holding an in-store event:
- Have an fashion illustrator or cartoonist do quick sketches of guests and their pup. It’s informal – no sitting still for an hour! These are fun, personalized, and unique souvenirs that your guests will appreciate. I have mine hanging right above my desk.
- Invite any local bloggers that live in your area to the party. Maybe they’ll take a few photos and write about the event on their blog! This is a way for small businesses to get some nice (and free) press. You’ll want to choose someone whose blog topics mesh well with your store and the kind of event you’re having.
- Give someone who is just starting out a chance to showcase their product. For example, if you know someone who is trying to get a dog-treat business off the ground, ask them to supply a variety of treats for your store’s monthly “yappy hour” event. Have them attend and let them put out some business cards or fliers. You may end up with a fabulous new product that your competitors don’t carry, and you’re supporting a fellow small-business owner. It’s win-win.
Stay tuned for the next issue, where I try making Venetian Masquerade style masks for Hugo and I to wear at the Pre-Westminster Gala, coming up February 10th here in New York City.
By Laura Kinsey | Photo By KiKi LIC Photography