Take a walk by [co][lab] in Urbana, and you may notice something interesting. Looking through the glass sheets of the front of the building, you’ll see plywood boards shaped in a rectangle, spanning the floor to the ceiling.
They surround the newest experiment by the founders of [co][lab] and a creative marketing businesswoman named Aileen Moon: a pop up flower shop that will bring daisies to the community and help for women who have been affected by domestic abuse.
“Within [co][lab], we’re starting this creative agency,” Aileen said. “This pop-up works in conjunction with that.”
Pop ups, according to both Aileen and Matthew Cho, who work within [co][lab], are popular in more populated cities such as New York City and Chicago. Bringing pop ups to Urbana is an opportunity for Aileen to expand her creative marketing agency and to foster collaboration between local businesses.
Collaboration is what [co][lab] is all about. Founded in June 2013, [co][lab] has helped bring small business owners together in a shared space where they can collaborate and help their businesses grow — together.
“There have been a lot of small success stories,” Matthew said. “[co][lab] is all about fostering collaboration between local businesses. So we have one industrial designer, a social media consultant, etcetera, all in the building together.”
But it’s not as easy as some might suggest, Matthew said. “Everyone talks about collaboration but no one knows exactly how to do it. So [co][lab] is an experiment in a sense.”
Which brings us back to Aileen Moon’s flower pop up shop. The shop opened this past Sunday, it will be self-directed, meaning people will decide to buy the product (or not) without the help of a salesman. People will come in, see the storefront design of the flower shop, and most importantly see the wide array of fresh daisies that will be displayed in various manners. Then if they want a daisy, they can pay a single dollar per flower and off they will go.
It’s an idea that hearkens back to Aileen’s college days when she studied abroad in Italy as a student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For the final weeks in the country, she worked in a flower shop and that experience left an impression on her.
“Flowers can brighten a room,” Aileen said. “I’ve always wanted people to invest more in flowers.”
Daisies are sun-like flowers with white petals around a golden center composed of tiny disk flowers. They are the second largest family of flowering plants and make up around ten percent of all flowering plants on earth.
The timing of the opening of the first ever flower pop up shop in Urbana is not coincidental. Asked for another reason why the flower shop was opening for the first two weeks of February, she gave a simple reason: Valentine's Day.
And the other pop-ups on the way reflect this theme of tying together dates with products. In March, the pop up business will be called “Pies and Ties” and will feature a tie-maker from Pennsylvania who will bring in a vintage sewing machine and a demonstration on how to make ties.
Mother’s Day this year will feature another flower pop up with the local business called Fleurish. The idea, Aileen said, is to give small, local businesses an opportunity to creatively market their product, for low cost to boot.
“It’s a great marketing resource,” Aileen said. “They obviously get a lot more exposure because we get a lot of traffic from nearby businesses. Because pop ups are more experimental, they get to be a little more experimental with marketing.”
This first pop up though will be more about the concept of pop ups than about the product itself.
“Pop ups are meant to be self-directed events,” Aileen said. “It’s the first pop up. We want to see how the community will respond to it. We want to promote the idea of a pop up.”
But make no mistake—there is a larger cause behind the daisies that will be abounding in plenty at the [co][lab] for the next to weeks. A percentage of the proceeds will go to The Center for Women in Transition, a local organization that helps women who have been affected by domestic abuse. Founded in 1985, The Center for Women in Transition provides housing and supportive services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness or who are victims of domestic violence.
At the end of the day, Aileen believes the idea of a pop up business can go far in this community, giving a platform for small businesses that have great products but no way to market them. She personally has always been interested in small businesses and hopes the pop up concept will grow popular enough to help them out.
As for Matthew Cho and [co][lab], word is spreading that there is place for small business owners to go and collaborate on products, which will help out local businesses and the local community. The pop up concept should only further the role of [co][lab] as an experiment whose results are still uncertain.
They expect to receive a good amount of foot traffic for the opening of the pop up flower shop, as [co][lab] is sandwiched between a couple of popular Urbana spots. The general demographic so far has been young Urbana adults but older than undergraduate college students.
But the real test will come this week, when the design will be revealed to the public and those line of daisies will stand out there, ready to be bought and taken home to an unassuming loved one. Then the results of the pop up experiment will be known.