Erik, Naiomi and I founded SocialEarth nearly four years ago to the day. We saw a need in the media for uplifting, solution-driven news, news that would encourage and support social entrepreneurs to take on the difficult but incredibly necessary path of powerful, scalable change.
When 3BL Media acquired SocialEarth in the spring of 2012, Erik and I wanted to continue the impact we had made in another sector that we knew very well: retail. I had spent over 3 years at BestBuy.com and Erik had watched new avenues of e-commerce emerge at 8thBridge.
We saw a dire need to make space more accessible and affordable during a time where vacancy is nearly double the history average in the U.S. are at around 10 percent. Even in cities like San Francisco and New York City where space is in high demand and comes at a premium, you’ll still find empty stores on the most sought after streets.
We also talked to friends and family members who ran traditional stores or started temporary ones in pop-up shops, both with major pain points and problems. They were doing well selling online, but offline was complex. These factors and others led us to believe there must be a better way. Airbnb did it for residential real estate, RelayRides did it for cars, why shouldn’t there be an easier way to access unused and underutilized retail space?
Retail is evolving and we wanted to bring the solution to the sharing and local economies, creating a new way to rent space in the short term. This would allow space owners to generate additional income, and brands, artists and designers to reach customers in their own communities at more desirable rates. That’s why we created Storefront, a marketplace for short-term retail space.
We don’t think that retail is dying like some, we see it undergoing a renaissance, moving back to the bazaar where offline experiences are vivid, tactile and engaging. E-commerce does convenience and selection incredibly well; so offline will have to leverage deliver a more engaging experience and delight the customer.
Since completing the AngelPad accelerator in fall of 2012, the Storefront team has been working extremely hard. We’ve had the opportunity to facilitate some amazing collaborations between brands and spaces, and have been overwhelmed with an outpouring of support.
We are looking forward to what’s next and hope you’ll join us in spreading the word. Maybe you want to see your favorite brand pop-up in your city (maybe SF or NYC), or maybe there is a block of vacant retail space sitting empty. Either way, I encourage you to join the movement and share what we are building. We hope that together we can make our communities more vibrant and livable.