In the business of setting up shop.
Marketplaces that support local entrepreneurs are becoming quite popular in Jeddah. These places bring fashion, furniture to food under one roof. Businesses that started on Instagram and creative entrepreneurs with limited funding are finding a lot of benefit in subletting at community-centric markets.
Retailing on Instagram
If you’ve bought something via Instagram before, you’ll be familiar with the process: placing the order, getting through the hassle of pick-up or delivery and then waiting for your order to arrive the same day or on a scheduled date. While this is convenient for busy consumers, especially if they’re already familiar with the brand, it lacks the undeniable satisfaction in shopping at a store where you can personally check the product before making a purchase. On the other hand, Instagram entrepreneurs might struggle to juggle an online presence while also managing production, delivery and developing the concept. Being social media smart is essential; a chef may not be as good at marketing on social media as they are in whipping up a delicious pie. In fact, small business owners might not even have the capital to keep a cashier, let alone rent an entire store in a Mall or shopping district. This can dampen their potential and success.
Making the Move
This is where community-centric marketplaces and concept stores are stepping as a solution. Shared retail spaces provide an affordable option for startups that want to move beyond the virtual community. By going retail, they can focus their energy on growing their business, running and developing the concept.
One such retail-space business is Homegrown Market, which takes its name from its vision to support local. They currently serve almost 50 clients with the majority being local entrepreneurs. Tamara Abu Khadra, co-founder of Homegrown Market, advises small businesses to “Be realistic with retail price points and stay true to your brand.” They offer clients many services including display management, inventory and sales management and brand positioning. Homegrown has steadily grown to become a central shopping outlet for Saudis.
Crate, a recently launched retail-space, was founded last year by four friends after they researched the struggles of Instagram businesses. Their concept, while similar to Homegrown Market in outlook, goes a step-further by also serving as a business incubator and providing market research reports. Rayan Fadul, one of the founders, explains, “We help you develop your product and business skills so we can prepare you to leave us.”
Alanoud Albraikan and Haya Al Jamal, founders of Melted (brownies in a jar), were operating entirely from home before joining Crate in June last year, “It benefitted us by giving us a space to sell a larger quantity and also gave us the extra exposure that we needed as a new startup.”
Specializing in lifestyle, Sinwan Concept showcases handmade décor and furniture items by Middle Eastern designers. Besides offering shared retail space, Sinwan Concept also involves their architects and graphic designers in improving products that have potential. According to co-owner Hani Abdullah, collaborating with Sinwan can help designers learn how to improve their products and also acquire relevant skills.
Not Just Shopping
To customers, localized markets and concept stores can also offer more than just retail therapy. Homegrown, for example, includes a cozy corner where Medd serves freshly brewed coffee. Another concept store, Libra Boutique, showcases the work of Saudi fashion designers in a premium setting with a twist. Rana Ismail’s concept is to offer the dual experience of food and fashion; shoppers can browse the collections and conclude their visit with tea and a quick bite at the lounge.
Overall, while setting up a business online can have its perks, shared retail spaces take away some of the work, give better exposure to the brand “in real life,” and also allow the entrepreneur to focus majorly on developing their concept and products. These marketplaces are also a space for the community to discover and shop Saudi brands, whether established or up and coming.
Moving to a brick and mortar set-up doesn’t eliminate the social media aspect, of course. Continuing to maintain their social media presence allows the small businesses to keep in touch with their online community, market the products, and also drive traffic to the stores. Additionally, Homegrown Market and Crate both provide social media support to their clients.