Pop-up Shops, Microloans, Feasts and Forests

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The business of opening a business looks different than it used to. You don’t just have the option of opening a storefront anymore — you can do a pop-up shop, a farmers market, an event space. You can get your business off the ground with microloans and support it through social media. Running a business this way can be tough on the owner — it requires a lot of hustling — but it has advantages, too. You can find out if you really have what it takes to run a business without the high risk of signing a lease and building out a space. And you can treat your small pop-ups as focus groups, testing what your customers like while you’re still flexible enough to respond to changes.

 

When it comes to challenging the status quo of business, Kristen Hall and Victor King have done it all, and they’ve done it really well. Kristin’s Baking Bandits has been delivering really fantastic treats all over Birmingham for years now, and they’ve become one of the favorite stops at the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market. Her event space, The Nest, brings great events to Avondale all the time (events like, ahem, the launch of The Localist book). Kristen’s social media is spot-on, and she won a microloan through REV Birmingham last year to expand her business. Now Victor King is partnering with Kristen, and he’s bringing his own talents to the table (pun intended — go ahead and judge me). Victor’s pop-up restaurant, Tomatoes and Grits, has gotten nothing but amazing reviews. His passion for local food and combining flavors in new and excitingly delicious ways is evident every time he talks about his food (and every time I taste it), and he’s become a staple at the Baking Bandits booth on Saturday mornings.

 

These pop-up businesses are about to settle into one location — and I couldn’t be more excited. What’s the deal? As Kristen puts it, “Baking Bandits + Tomatoes & Grits = Feast & Forest” (I just pictured a scone and a bowl of grits giving each other a high five). That’s right: Kristen and Victor are joining forces to bring breakfasts and sandwiches (and more, I’m sure) to Birmingham every day. And if the food they’ve been serving around Birmingham (including my lunch at last week’s Secret’s Out Conference, pictured above) is any indication, it’s going to be amazing.

 

I’m excited about this because Kristen and Victor have really put in the work to be sure they know what their customers want, and they know how to make recipes work on a big scale. They even know the boring stuff like pricing and lease agreements and health department quirks. That means their business will be stronger than your average start-up, and that kind of strength is good for the local economy. And it’s good for us as consumers because, you know, it’s delicious.

 

So, WHERE is this great new hot spot? Well, I’m not supposed to say that yet. But I’m pretty sure Feast & Forest is going to be announcing their location really soon (like, REALLY soon), so you should totally go follow them on social media to find out: here’s the Feast & Forest Facebook and the Feast & Forest Instagram.

 

Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.

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