“Don’t be scared, and start slowly” – Chef Perez Cocina’s Esteban Perez brings us behind the scenes at Colombian Street Food

With small markets, pubs, and cafes lined up among Camden High Street, you’ll find the Colombian Street Kitchen at no. 11. This is a new concept by Chef Pérez Cocina owner Esteban Pérez.

Chef Pérez Cocina is a catering business specialising in modern Colombian cuisine, with its focus on introducing the unique flavour and taste to the British market.

The story behind the Colombian Street Kitchen name

Having operated two successful pop ups before, Esteban wanted to focus on an entirely new experience. “My pop ups before were for sit down meals. The idea with this time around was to create food that people can take away.”

“When working on my business plan, I identified the type of people that would come and try my food,” Esteban says. “I knew that my customers were between 24 to 40 and were usually festival goers who like good on the go.” Knowing who his customers were helped Esteban develop a specific type of food that is new and will be known for its quality.

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Location. Location. Location.

Location definitely helps the footfall and reception of a pop up. After reading about a shop that popped up in the same location in Camden, Esteban knew that it would be a good fit for the Colombian Street Kitchen. “People would come in and tell me, ‘there’s nothing like this in Camden.’” He recounts a time a customer told him he had gotten down off the bus after seeing the shop’s sign while passing by.

Having a place that is known for heavy footfall, it was a good opportunity to also introduce new products. Since people were not familiar with Colombian cuisine, Esteban promoted his pickles that he designed specifically for this pop up. “People would be curious and ask about it. They were able to try it here and we receive a lot of good feedback.”

Insider tip: find out how to reach new customers with our Ask the experts blog post.

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Be proactive

Social media was a key tool in promoting the Colombian Street Kitchen. “I used my Facebook page to let people know about what’s going on,” says Esteban. Instagram and Twitter were also important in getting the word out. Find out how to make the most of Twitter for your pop up from our experts.

Taking advantage of the situation such as location is also vital to running a successful pop up. “I knew people want to try new things, so we did a lot of sampling,” says Esteban. “I’m noisy during the afternoon, so I’d be outside telling people to ‘come inside and try our food’. People I was talking to during the first week were the ones that kept returning.” It’s important to remain consistent in order to have a steady flow of people coming in to visit the shop.

Don’t be scared and start slowly

For those who are thinking of launching their own pop up, Esteban advises to take the chance. “Don’t be scared. When you want to do a pop up, usually it’s because you know what you have is good.”

Another tip he has is to start slowly. When he first started, Esteban only booked for 9 days. “I didn’t want to spend a lot of money because I wasn’t sure. But after 9 days and the feedback I received, I knew that it worked. I ended up extending it to a month.”

If you would like your pop up held at 11 Camden High Street, check out the space or discover more for yourself here.

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From management consultant to barista: Tim Baker’s Brew Bar Coffee in Camden

Tim Baker from Brew Bar Coffee House at 11 Camden High Street shares his pop up story with us.

In my job as a management consultant, I had moments where I realised I didn’t want to go further with it. People earn good money and have done well but there’s no way I wanted to do it. I really hate management speak. I had this idea bubbling away for a couple of years for a brew bar. I always had the idea, but never saw how I was going to do it.

I considered working in coffee shops. I also looked at various websites at long term shop lets, but I saw no way I could do that. You often have to pay a premium. If I drove past somewhere empty that looked good, I’d ring up the agents, but never with any belief I’d be able to do it.

I saw We Are Pop Up and had been on a few times and saw this place in Camden. I went there and sat outside, and counted the footfall. I was happy. It was an empty property which was nice.

I went on the website and sent a message straight to the landlord. After only a couple of messages, I set up a viewing. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I asked questions – the history of the building, the fees. I brought with me a builder which was quite useful – he could ask questions and point out any flaws. Then I went back with an interior designer. After two visits, I was happy to go ahead.

In some ways I did just close my eyes and sign. I thought, it’s only three months, so I jumped in. I didn’t want to continue doing the things I’d been doing previously. The landlord was ready to go. He did pull it for a day because it was all too quick!

I signed with an electronic signature. It was all seriously simple. I tried to make sure all the communication is on the site itself because that’s a good legal record.

Doing it on a three month license meant less risk, and I could make mistakes. There are mistakes you need to make if you’ve not run a coffee shop before.

Brew Bar interior

I did the space up in eight days. It looks quite good because I haven’t done a lot to it. It has an urban industrial feel, with concrete floors. I did it very cheaply, but I have to recover that in three months or accept the loss. There’s a negotiation between you and the landlord about what you can and can’t do. There have been minor problems, but he got someone to fix them. He put my shop sign up because he happened to have a handyman nearby, which was nice.

Brew Bar sign

The original plan was to have a proper coffee brew bar, where the first thing you see is a syphon and filter. But brewing coffee this way takes time, so I offered other options for people who want their coffee quickly.

The real focus is coffee but after opening I very quickly realised I needed food. I used We Are Pop Up to get the food side going. It brings people into the shop. I made the window space of the shop an area for food businesses, like a market stall at lunchtimes. I’ve had four different ones so far. I’ve used We Are Pop Up both as a tenant and landlord, to sublet that area.

Brew Bar food

Wifi was a real hurdle. The broadband companies want you to sign up for a year. I got a really big dongle instead, and that’s worked.

A lot of customers have come back because we were flexible at the beginning, adding food and different types of milk, like almond milk and lacto-free. It’s important to be flexible and willing to listen to what people want. But you have to balance that with consistency. For example, the heat of our coffee. Some people like it hotter, some cooler. You have to find the right balance between being flexible with customers, and developing the way you’re known for doing things. We chose an optimum temperature and stuck to it.

Brew Bar coffee

Setting up a bank account was one of the biggest challenges. Banks don’t quite understand digital documents, so I had to sign a paper lease to get a bank account.

It can be difficult to get answers out of the council, like for outside seating prices.

I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to renew, but I’ve got the option. I could go and use everything I’ve learned somewhere else, or stay here. That’s the great thing about pop ups, trying something out in a short period of time. I couldn’t have done it without We Are Pop Up.

Want to launch your very own coffee house? Or any other pop up for that matter… Head to our website and check out the hundreds of spaces currently looking for tenants, here.

Pop Up Shop Interview: Teastained Lil’s Alexandra Heywood on Pop-Up Life

As part of our on-going Hot Pop Ups series, we’ve decided to expand the lens and provide our community with insights into the thinking, development and foundations that underpin exciting shop concepts.

This week we interviewed Alexandra Heywood, owner and operator of teastained Lil. Alexandra was a short-lister for the most recent Boxpark competition, winning a runner-up prize of a free week-long pop up in Shoreditch. She has recently set up her own pop-up shop with a couple friends in Camden. We got in touch to hear more about how teastained Lil came about, and what Alexandra has planned for the future of her brand!

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We Are Pop Up (WAPU): Describe your current pop up in 3 words.

Alexandra Heywood (AH): Stylish fashion boutique.

WAPU: What is the concept or aim behind it?

AH: Committed to selling style with style – teastained Lil prides itself on selling unique, stylish and chic day-to-evening wear and jewellery, with value-added style advice, inspiration and events.

We are of the firm belief that people need the right environment within which to shop and that they deserve to feel special and inspired. teastained Lil is putting shopping back in fashion.

WAPU: Has this changed as you build up your pop up experience?

Lil: Our pop-up shop experience and unique shopping events have only strengthened our belief – and company manifesto – that shopping should be personal, experiential and it should go beyond the till transaction. teastained Lil is intent on making every ‘pop-up’ opportunity different and inspired so the ‘pop-up’ model works perfectly for us, allowing us to be versatile and adds an air of exclusivity and mystique.

On setting up the business, we were told continually how important our online presence should be and that’s how people prefer to shop so we’re buoyed by the fact that this is not always the case and people do want to get out there and experience different things.

WAPU: What can visitors expect when coming to your pop up?

AH: Every pop-up event we run is themed so that customers experience something different. Our last pop-up event was called, teastained Lil’s Frockology, and customers were invited to a shopping event based on our Law of Frockology. It offered style advice, inspired looks, and customers could experience style advisory services such as ‘Frockin Hell’ alongside to bespoke cocktails, cupcakes and live music.

Our more long-term pop-up boutiques are always appropriately styled and offer customers a first look at our new fashion and jewellery ranges. We run various promotions in store and try to make the shopping experience as comfortable and fun as possible.

Currently, residing in Camden Lock Market, we’ve teamed our vintage-inspired clothes with pop-up pals Ma Maison and The Style Standard to create a one-off boutique.

WAPU: How did you get into this pop up venture?

AH: Pop-up opportunities, in every sense of the word, do, and quite quickly, ‘pop up’ and you have to be hot on the heels of the people offering the opportunities and supporting the brands as they are the gatekeepers. We worked hard to identify the best organisations to work with and do our best to be tapped into the network and put ourselves out there as much as possible.  Pop-ups are a great means of getting your business known – so to identify those opportunities you have to do exactly that yourself – pop up and get noticed!

Our pop-up CV is a steadily growing document and we’re very proud of who we’re affiliated with and what we’ve done.  We shout about it at every opportunity!

WAPU: How does the pop up idea work for your company? (E.g. does it enable you to trial new products, new spaces before committing.)

AH: The pop-up model is perfect for teastained Lil as we’re able to penetrate new areas and expand our customer reach without committing to one location.  It also gives us the opportunity to lift the cyber veil and speak to our customers, hear their wardrobe woes, listen to their views and learn what makes them tick.

WAPU: How has We Are Pop Up helped you find space for your pop up?

AH: We were very lucky to have been selected as a finalist in the We Are Pop Up Boxpark competition and have since received generous words of wisdom, support and access to a great online tool to profile our pop-up credentials.

WAPU: What has been the biggest challenge in creating your pop up, and making it a success?

AH: As a pop-up, you have to work hard to gain customer’s trust and very quickly establish a customer base – pop-ups, by their very nature, can be perceived as short-lived and don’t carry the same brand recognition as high street beasts.  As you’re only given the space for a short term, it’s important to work as hard as possible on a fast set-up and a creative and effective use of space – often there’s no time or acceptance of significant shop design or fitting, so it’s good to have a plethora of ideas on how to put together a great looking shop in a short space of time.

WAPU: What has been a personal highlight when putting together your pop up?

AH: teastained Lil is at its best when it’s seen, heard and experienced. Nothing gives greater pleasure than meeting customers, solving style woes and presenting them with a personal, fun and inspired shopping experience; the antithesis of generic, high street shopping.

WAPU: Last question – what advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting a pop up project?

AH: To get a pop-up, you need to ‘pop up’ as much as possible – talk to people, put yourself out there, get as networked as possible and be sure to scream about every pop-up feat – big or small.  The more experience you gain and support you garner, the more attractive you will be to landlords.

Keep it fresh and fun.  Pop-ups have the power to change the way we shop and should, therefore, be providing inspired and interesting alternatives to the failing high street.

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Go visit teastained Lil in Camden!

Many thanks to Alexandra Heywood for answering our questions, and to Lucy Neech for curating the interview