Move over QVC, local boutique Girl Tribe offers virtual shopping experience

Move over QVC, local boutique Girl Tribe offers virtual shopping experience
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In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Girl Tribe co-founders Sarah Baucom and Carrie Barker rescheduled their pop-up shopping event at the Charlotte Convention Center on March 28.

The pop-up usually attracts roughly 5,000 attendees and supplies four months’ worth of revenue for the South End-based boutique.

The small business puts on these pop-up shopping events twice a year in Charlotte, as well as in four other Southeastern cities. All told, these events make up about 40 percent of Girl Tribe’s overall revenue. The rest comes from a storefront (temporarily closed) and online sales. A small portion comes from Girl Tribe Creative, which offers design and branding services.

Like thousands of other small businesses, Girl Tribe’s bottom line is hurting. No one knows how long life will be paused because of coronavirus, so Baucom and Barker knew it was time to pivot their business model to keep their brand afloat.

Though the in-person shopping event can’t happen as planned, Girl Tribe will be taking the concept online, creating a virtual Girl Tribe Pop-A-Thon.

It’s a “QVC-style” shopping event happening on Facebook from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, March 28, the same day as the canceled pop-up. The vendors who would have appeared at the Convention Center will instead make their merchandise available during the online event (though collections will be smaller). Baucom and Barker will model and highlight the products, while shoppers can comment to indicate they’re making a purchase. You need to have a Comment Sold account, which is free. Those who don’t have Facebook will be able to shop the inventory using the Girl Tribe website. Though they originally planned to do the Pop-A-Thon live, because of the new stay at home order, Baucom and Barker will now pre-record it and post it on Saturday.

Baucom and Barker say about 100 vendors are participating, and their goal is to sell 1,000 items. In between selling segments, they’ll feature other area business owners. The women of Hilliard Studio Method will be teaching a 20-minute class and Alyssa Wilen of Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen will do a short cooking demonstration.

Part of the setup for Saturday’s virtual Pop-A-Thon.

Reflecting on the quick and necessary pivot to a new model, Baucom says, “We went through all the stages of grief. From being incredibly upset, being in denial, and being really freakin’ angry. It’s like we’ve felt every single emotion possible. We’re operating like we’ve already lost everything. We’re already rebuilding.”

Girl Tribe plans to host a make-up in-person event in June. In the meantime, they aren’t focused on making a profit with this weekend’s Pop-A-Thon. Instead, the goal is to provide revenue to the small businesses impacted by the cancellation of this Saturday’s event. Each vendor keeps the profits of their sales, minus a small amount of money to cover transaction fees and other assorted costs.

Baucom says, “People are ready to help out and support small businesses during this time. So let’s take advantage of that. Let’s connect vendors with their target demographic, which we usually do with the pop-up. And let’s just have a little fun. We’re going to make mistakes. I have no idea what’s going to come out of my mouth. It’s going to be goofy. But it could also be incredible.”

Additionally, the pair have created a small business “sponsorship” program.

They’ve created a special collection of t-shirts and hats, and 10 percent of the revenue will go directly to the businesses they’re sponsoring. The goal is to offer between $100 and $500 to each chosen business. So far, 70 businesses have applied and the fund has raised more than $2,000.

Reflecting back on the necessary adjustments they’ve made to their business model since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Baucom says, “Initially you just get really sad. You go inside yourself. You think, ‘I’ve worked so hard. So much blood, sweat, and tears. We’ve sacrificed so much already, Universe, don’t you know?’ I think every business owner feels that right now.

“Then you realize, ‘OK, I’m healthy. My family’s healthy. And that’s what’s really important. We can drink coffee and do work at home. What a privilege that is.'”

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