In today’s quickly-evolving world of shopping, when so much has moved online, brands have found pop-up stores an effective path to promotion. Pop-up stores help companies connect with consumers in an intimate way that also generates buzz, excitement and exclusivity. In fact, 80% of retailers that have executed a pop-up store concept have declared the tactic a success.
These four cutting-edge brands – Rambler Sparkling Water, Blue Bird Mobile Dessert and Espresso Bar, Cabinet Health, and Equator Coffee – are taking their pop-up stores on the road, harnessing the mobile format to inject creativity as they introduce their products to new markets in a low-risk way. Unlike traditional storefronts or even food truck counterparts, mobile retail spaces benefit from the ability to move from location to location on a whim, so that brands can meet their customers where they are IRL.
All four brands have purchased mobile trailers from California-based Happier Camper. The company sells ultralight, easily towable campers that can be configured on-the-fly to suit your needs – from camping to mobile office, to empowering your small business or national brand.
Happier Camper first disrupted the camping industry when it launched its HC1 travel trailer back in 2015, the one hitch then was the steep price tag. The new HC Breeze model is streamlined and offered at a more affordable starting price of just under $25,000. Read on to find out how these innovative brands are utilizing their Happier Campers to take their products on the road.
Rambler Sparkling Water
Rambler Sparkling Water is sparkling water from Texas that offers a sodium-free, limestone mineral blend available in plain and a variety of citrus flavors. The company partners with Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation and American Rivers to give back to the environment. Rambler has been in business since 2018, doubling in revenue each year. This year, Rambler is expected to reach $9 million in revenue .
“Rambler was founded by three Austinites who love the great outdoors and who love sucking the marrow out of life,” said Dave Mead, CMO and cofounder at Rambler Sparkling Water, in an exclusive interview with me. “It’s the sparkling water that looks like a beer and drinks like a beer.”
Like most small businesses, the greatest challenge Rambler has faced was surviving Covid. Bars and restaurants represented 50% of their business, so when those shuttered, Rambler had to weather the storm and push harder for retail space and to promote brand awareness. They succeeded. Rambler is now carried in grocery stores across the country.
The company purchased their first Happier Camper in 2019, just before the pandemic. During Covid, when businesses closed, Rambler traveled the Southwest generating brand awareness, venturing through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. Post-Covid, they’re still using the camper in Texas and beyond. In fact, the camper strategy has been so successful that Rambler is now purchasing a second one to reside in Los Angeles.
“On the open road, the camper is a moving billboard. At events and festivals, it’s a beacon. It has served us well, drawing folks over, where we’re then given the opportunity to educate them about Rambler,” Mead explains.
“Don’t chase the money,” Mead advises aspiring entrepreneurs. “Do what you love. If you truly love what you do, it’ll show in your work.”
Blue Bird Mobile Dessert & Espresso Bar
Blue Bird Mobile Dessert & Espresso Bar provides sweet treats on the go for special occasions and events – from weddings and birthdays, to special occasions, corporate events, and small gatherings. All pastries and menus are custom-designed to pair optimally with coffee or tea, according to the specifications and themes of the client.
At the end of its second year, Blue Bird already tripled the number of bookings and revenue. Starting its third year in business, the company plans to expand by doing more indoor events with a signature blue espresso cart. Seasonal highlights include biscotti, cranberry crumb bars, and brown butter pecan cookies. Seasonal drinks include lavender lattes, maple cardamom lattes and matcha tea and raspberry lattes.
Shauna Hinchen-Joyal, the founder of Blue Bird, has been a pastry chef for 20 years. She painted her company’s first Happier Camper from top to bottom in blue in honor of her late father Jack, an avid skier. “He would use the familiar ski term ‘blue bird day’ when the sky was bright blue and the sun was shining,” said Hinchen-Joyal in an exclusive interview with me. “He loved espresso and pastries, inspiring me to go to culinary school. And here I am!”
“Our clients feel specialness and joy when we roll up in our blue camper. Our Happier Camper is a conversation starter and a stunner!” Hinchen-Joyal explains. “We use it as an alternative to a brick and mortar – it allows us to serve our provisions to a wider customer base.”
Getting the word out about the business was a huge challenge when Blue Bird first started with a limited advertising budget. The company had to rely on word of mouth. Hinchen-Joyal invested in the camper as a way to spread brand awareness. “The bright blue camper is hard to miss!” she exclaims.
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Hinchen-Joyal offers this advice. “When building a brand, it is important to offer something you are passionate about. Customers can tell when you believe in what you are selling and feel your care, attention and enthusiasm. In the food business, it can often be helpful to start out small with hosting pop-up events or selling your products at local farmer’s markets.”
Cabinet Health is a sustainable health care company on a mission to eliminate single-use plastic in medicine. Through a digital pharmacy, the company sells prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines like cold and flu supplements in fully compostable and refillable packaging. Having launched five years ago, Cabinet Health has reached close to a million customers. Products are available on the company website, on Amazon, and in over 700 CVS stores, and will launch in another national retail chain in December.
Russell Gong is the president of Cabinet Health and cofounder along with Achal Patchal. Having worked his entire life in environmental policy and social enterprises, Gong’s life purpose has been to make a positive impact on the environment. Patchal’s mission has been to improve healthcare. So, they combined their two backgrounds to build Cabinet Health.
The biggest challenge Cabinet Health has faced is brand awareness. “There are 190 billion single-use plastic medicine bottles made every single year, and not many people know about that,” said Gong in an exclusive interview with me. “We’ve had to educate consumers and help them understand that we are part of the solution.”
One way Cabinet Health has increased brand awareness is via an appearance on Shark Tank. That secured a few million viewers the first day, and hundreds of thousands more since. They also invested in a Happier Camper. “We realized that sustainability and healthcare is really local and personal. So we wanted to create a national campaign that engaged communities. Through our camper, we conduct education on what is sustainable healthcare. Consumers can bring in their plastic bottles and swap them out,” says Gong.
Gong advises aspiring entrepreneurs to have “a strong mission, a good team, and data to know if the mission and the team are going the right way.”
Equator Coffees, a certified B-corp, is a boutique specialty coffee roaster located in Marin County, California that roasts high-end coffee for restaurants, bakeries, offices and universities. They also own and operate a dozen cafes in the Bay Area and around Los Angeles. The company works directly with coffee farmers in order to provide unique, fresh coffee that’s managed “from roast to order.” In business since 1995, Equator has seen sustainable growth year over year, with current revenues of $25 million.
“My life purpose is to protect and support the people in our community – our employees and our suppliers,” said Helen Russell, cofounder and executive chair of Equator Coffees in an exclusive interview with me. “That’s a non-negotiable to me. We built Equator to be a place where we would want to work, where employees were paid well, had benefits and were able to be themselves. By sourcing coffee from empowered coffee farmers, we mitigate the environmental impact of roasting and shipping coffee.”
While the cafes are community hubs that welcome groups, Equator’s Happier Camper has helped to activate retail locations and bring the company’s coffee out into the world. “We have many cycling and running groups that start or end at our cafes,” Russell explains. “When there’s a special event, like a race, we can bring brewed coffee in the camper to the starting point. Even if that starting point is at a park before dawn!”
The biggest challenge Equator has faced was the pandemic. The company’s response has been to “diversify, diversify, diversify!” exclaims Russell. When most tech companies went remote, Equator’s office business disappeared overnight. So the company began selling coffee to individuals for their home offices. Direct to consumer grew to represent a huge part of the business, as well as grocery.
“Do what you love, and always work on your personal growth,” Russell advises aspiring entrepreneurs. “Read business books, take courses, and work on understanding people. Building rapport is the one of the most powerful things you can do.”