5 September 2013 - 10:04 am

Popping up a Shop at Spitalfields

Anyone that watched The Apprentice task where the teams were challenged to “smell what sells” and grow an enterprise  from Stall to Shop in 48 hours might have spotted the two teams at the iconic Spitalfields Market. This episode struck a particular cord with me mainly because less than a week earlier I watched a team from Sheffield Enactus trade their handmade cosmetics, that aim to eradicate human trafficking, along with 15 other University teams in Uni PopShop. And even now after years of enterprise experience I still learnt a thing or two.

I remember my first trading stall quite fondly. Rummaging through the archives I managed to unearth this beauty of a photo of me and my team completing the first challenge of “The Intern” the University’s version of The Apprentice and selling cupcakes to turn a quick profit.

Selling our handmade cupcakes at a high profit margin on a cold day in Sheffield

Selling our handmade cupcakes at a high profit margin on a cold day in Sheffield

I didn’t know it back then but this was the start of a whole new part of my life. Where I would fall head over into Enactus, move onto social projects and enterprise, intern at USE to help design a programme of social enterprise support. Then, go on to deliver that programme of social enterprise support, which I would highly recommend for anyone wanting to start their own social enterprise, check out our support here.

From here to implementing an international co-operative and all alongside a LLM in Commerical Law. This whirlwind often whizzes me around in a fret of workshops, students and business plans.

So, it was quite refreshing to find myself stood in a market watching some students trade their products for the first time. The challenge was simple. Students were given £300 to invest in a social enterprise product and challenged to make as much money for their venture as possible in a single day.

The sugar scrub smelt good enough to eat and the body butter was sold in  quaint kilner jars

The sugar scrub smelt good enough to eat and the body butter was sold in quaint kilner jars


So Sheffield Enactus had taken the £300 and invested heavily into three products that were made using Shea Butter sourced directly from Nigeria from a village at high risk to human trafficking. After nights of whipping, whisking and testing the team produced a delicious Lip Balm, tantalising Body Scrub and a beautiful Body Butter. Mid way through the evening we realised we had forgotten our table decorations so I was on the morning team that was tasked with dashing around London trying to print pictures and source string, which was surprisingly elusive.

The morning at Spitalfields started slow but it began to pick up as a lot of our online promotion to friends in London seemed to pay off and they came down to the stall to see the products.

The sales pitch was quite unique in that we asked customers to sample the product, meaning we could try some on their skin whilst we listed all the features and benefits, take a smell of the citrus lip balm as we told them all about the social enterprise cause and we even encouraged people to follow us on twitter @sifehope using the #beautyempowers. 

As the day was drawing to a close lots of stalls around us decided to slash their prices to try and entice further custom but we were committed to the high quality of the product and the importance of eradicating human trafficking so we decided to stick to our original price point.

By the end of the day we had traded over £300 worth of revenue but knew we had invested heavily using most of our original budget, the results would be revealed the next day after interviews with the judges on finances, marketing campaigns and overall entrepreneurial strategy. That night we spent preparing the pitches in a way that was reminiscent of Enactus National Competition. 

After the presentations at Ernst & Young and networking all round the winners we announced. Sheffield Enactus won best social media campaign, down to our presence on both Facebook and Twitter along with our lovely blog, which I would recommend you take a look at!

The whole event was utterly enjoyable and here were the key lessons I took away:

  • If you feel you’ve set a fair price point then do not be tempted to lower this when the pressure hits
  • Letting customers test the products is a great hook to get customers engaged
  • Sourcing string in London can be quite difficult when you don’t know your way around!


One comment

  1. liz says:

    I particularly like the final learning point. Will it be happening again next year?

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  • About the author

    Leanne Dodson

    I am studying for a Masters in Commercial Law, working as the Social Innovation Officer for the Enterprise Zone and Social Portfolio Director for Sheffield SIFE. I have always engaged with Social Enterprise and find the projects, students and entrepreneurs I work with truly inspirational. Taking on three different roles at the University has set me a challenge to say the least, but it is one that I am looking forward to rising to. And I like tea.