Meet Soumya Jain & Fletcher Viders
Meet Soumya Jain and Fletcher Viders, the co-founders of PopMark.com. Pop up shops have become a staple in the retailing industry in the past decade for several reasons. First, they allow retailers to reach their customers in areas where they currently do not have stores. They can test out those markets before committing to a permanent space. Second, they are fairly inexpensive, which allows smilers companies to get in on the game and build their following. Last, pop-ups are a great way for brands to build up some hype around the event. They get their customers excited about shopping again. Soumya and Fletcher saw this opportunity. They created a way to make the process of finding your location and planning your pop up easier. They basically took the WeWork model and applied it to pop-ups. Read their story here and get inspired!
We couldn’t cover every possible angle of technology in the fashion industry in just one post! This article is part of a 6 part Fashion Tech Business Series. If you want to learn how technology is being used to shape the fashion industry and how you can be a part of it check out the entire series at the bottom of this page.
We come from a diverse background covering technology, media, publishing, real estate and music. From startups to corporate ventures. We worked in jobs that included partnerships, growth strategy, business intelligence, product development, and marketing. These companies included: The Walt Disney Studios, New Yorker, Sony, Big Machine Records and such. We have worked together extensively in the past on projects that required scaling a company to launching unique products that were consumer-focused.
Light bulb moment…
Living in Los Angeles, both experimental activations and underutilized spaces caught our attention. Some of the busiest and best places in the city such as Melrose, La Brea, and Santa Monica Blvd are filled with “For Lease” signs as rising rents have pushed out smaller tenants. Along with our generations “Get it before it’s gone” trend, thanks to FOMO (fear of missing out), pop-ups were the perfect short-term activation to bring new ideas and experiences into the community. However, planning these can be very difficult. That’s why we started PopMark. We offer an online platform to plan, book, and publicize your pop up shop! Connecting together space owners, vendors, and brands, PopMark wants to help you connect with your customers in a physical way.
We both have had a very entrepreneurial upbringing that was a huge factor in starting this venture. We’ve heard “no’s”, worked 80+ hour work weeks for corporations and other startups contributed a lot from identifying trends to executing successful revenue models for different businesses and met amazing people along the way. When we started PopMark, it was a culmination of experience in various verticals and the indomitable spirit which is so important when you start your own venture. It definitely helped that we had worked together previously and were well versed on how to move the needle along when it gets tough.
Getting PopMark from idea to reality…
We started off with market research to estimate demand and supply within this industry. Since it is a niche, many people have assumptions about it being a trend. However, we quickly realized the pop-up industry has grown to 10 billion in sales and over 60% of customers have attended a pop-up shop in the past year. Big brands have realized that large solutions don’t create intimacy. Online solutions aren’t personal. Hence, the pop-up trend continues to grow in popularity.
Developing the website is an ongoing task, but we set up the MVP in less than two months (Soumya’s background is in Computer Science). In the meanwhile, we were reaching out to both emerging and established brands to try out PopMark, which helped us with our initial bookings and gave us invaluable site feedback. This started a network effect where most of our bookings now come through referrals. On the supply side, we had existing relationships with brokers that allowed us to tap into their portfolios. These networks helped us to expand into cool neighborhoods across America. As these relationships grow, we continuously add features to our site that makes it easy for both sides of the marketplace to function smoothly. Some of our upcoming product iterations include landlord dashboard for easy management, personalized reports for brands driven by data-insights for maximum ROI, and more.
Creating a unique experience for the consumer…
According to a study that was done by EventBrite, 76% of people would rather spend money on an experience rather than an item. That’s what PopMark is bringing to retail. From celebrity pop up shops to weekend outdoor markets, every brand can benefit from creating a physical experience for their customers. Some brands create these experiences to test local new markets or launch a new product. Others use their pop up stores as a way to create a new marketing campaign and get feedback.
Our business is set apart from temporary sharing locations (like Breather or WeWork) because of our focus on retail and experiences. As we tried to book our own pop-ups in the past, it was so difficult to find the right space for our idea. We’ve now created a platform that makes spaces such as “High Visibility” or “Outdoor” easy to locate in your city. It’s also pretty difficult to find landlords willing to rent spaces for short-term. We’ve been able to create a site where you can instantly connect and share your ideas with them.
At PopMark we focus on ease of usability. Although it might seem daunting at first, we’ve simplified the approach for booking pop-ups to 3 basic steps:
- Find the ideal location where your customers want you to pop up
- Check out space through our space-tour functionality
- Sign legals and pay for the space online
On the other hand, if you’re a space owner, we just require you to fill this simple form.
As with every startup founder, I think the biggest struggle is actually starting your business and gaining that first paying customer. There is so much to consider. From the registration of your business to the type of platform you want to build the web presence on, your branding, etc. For PopMark, we are operating in a process heavy environment. There are many rules and regulations to follow when setting up a short-term license. Especially in high visibility turnkey real estate locations. Therefore, figuring out how to make that as simple as possible was the biggest but the best challenge we had.
One thing we wish we knew then what we know now is where to find resources. The city of Los Angeles is filled with entrepreneurs, designers, coders, and supportive municipalities that are willing to help startups become connected. It is one of the largest cities. We knew that we should get more involved and connected with others in the same domain. But it was hard to know where to look to find what suits your own business.
As with many marketplaces, we have faced the same “chicken and the egg” problem. This has meant growing the business on the supply and demand side. We decided to focus mostly on the supply side. We have seen a lot of requests for our spaces that come naturally through internet searches, word of mouth, and through social media. As we continue to grow and add more spaces, there is always the check and balances of making sure the supply side is keeping up.
Our favorite strategy [to reach more customers] is word of mouth. We want others to test out our process and love it. From there, people naturally share a great new product or service with their friends. These are the relationships we value the most, but also learn the most from. We are working on partnerships and will have more spaces available in cities across the USA soon.
Beyond that, we have experimented with organic and paid marketing for reaching a wider set of audience.
Who do you admire either professionally or personally and why?
I have to admit that I’m a sucker for dating apps. Whitney Wolfe is someone that I admire a lot. Wolfe was able to turn a bad situation at her previous workplace into an entirely new dating app called Bumble where the women have control. At that time, she was competing against the big guys like Tinder. Having successfully started her business and the rate of growth and scale she was able to receive in an industry is a huge achievement. I see the app as more than a way to find a date, but as a testament to her determination and courage to continue her journey.
Connecting with other women in entrepreneurship has been a blessing. By having a large group of driven and creative women to connect with, we are constantly inspired to keep pushing through the struggles of starting a new business. Only other people who have started a new venture will understand just how hard the journey can be sometimes. Everyone likes to share their triumphs, but sharing failures are more important to us. That way, we can all learn to move forward together. I think the best advice we’ve received is, “Find the balance.” To us, this not only means with our spaces offered and customers but also with our own lives. This can take up so much of your time. It is important to find activities outside of work that keeps you motivated and excited.
Fashion Tech Business Series
If you or someone you know is interested in starting their own fashion tech company you can read the entire series here. Learn what it takes to be a successful fashion tech entrepreneur or just work in the field with the latest and greatest technology.
- How Technology Is Changing The Landscape Of The Fashion Industry
- Interview with PopMark Co-Founders Soumya Jain & Fletcher
- What Software Do Fashion Professionals Need To Know To Stay On The Cutting Edge
- Interview with Tycoon app Founder Jessica Perez
- What Software Do Fashion Designers Need To Know To Stay Competitive
- Interview with Passport Runway Founder Elizabeth Entin