RUNNING an independent young brand is tough in Singapore, and with the growing pressures of high rents and limited labour supply, what's an entrepreneur bent on growing his brand got to do? The answer, it increasingly seems for many local business owners, is to find security in numbers.
A burgeoning pool of them have been banding together to jointly run extensions of their businesses. These collaborations can range from two-week pop-up stores to permanent shared retail spaces. They often stretch across various fields from food and beverage to furniture and clothing retail, and even lifestyle services such as nail salons and poetry workshops.
An obvious benefit of joining hands is the collective pool of resources, knowledge and customer base that each brand can bring to the table, say business owners.
"A sad fact in Singapore is that we have so many budding entrepreneurs, but high rental rates and overheads can easily be their downfall," says Fred Lives Here's Angie Pasley. In some instances, it may even put them off from starting a brick-and-mortar store in the first place, she adds.
Hence, when her furniture store relocates from its current Emerald Hill shophouse digs to Orchard Central at the end of next month, they intend to share the 2,000 square foot retail space with an art gallery, a nail salon and an artisan gift store, among several others. The collective space will be an extension of Pact, which currently comprises restaurant-bar Kilo, menswear boutique Kin and hair salon, Pact + Lim.
There are intangible benefits too: life as an entrepreneur can get pretty lonely, hence tie-ups can both be a source of creative stimuli while providing psychological and emotional support.
"I believe it's important for a brand to expose itself to different environments, engage in exchanges with other designers so as to grow and improve itself," elaborates Colin Chen of Fabrix, one of the over 30 local labels showcased at temporary Little India retail store, Temporium.
For Pauline Tan of local coffee roasters, Liberty Coffee, taking part in collaborations - such as Japanese lifestyle store Atomi's pop-up in Isetan Scotts next month - is "a nice break from the daily grind".
She explains: "As an entrepreneur, sometimes you get so focused on your day-to-day responsibilities that you have no time to get out there and meet people or work on an alternative project."
Collaborations on the rise
But collaborations are not all about the business owners - customers these days have changing expectations of what a retail store should entail too.
According to Michelle Au of creative agency, Tofu, which helped to put together Temporium, local collaborations are "definitely on the rise" as jaded Singaporean shoppers demand more unconventional and off-the-beaten-track experiences.
Atomi founder, Andrew Tan, agrees, referencing brands such as SKII and Agnes B, which have all branched out from their core businesses into the spa and cafe business respectively. "Shopping is not simply about buying products any more, people want an experience," he says, "And as a start up, I'd rather find like-minded partners and tap on their strengths rather than start from scratch in these various fields on my own."
But teaming up isn't always as easy as it seems, nor is it a sure-fire recipe for success.
Artisan Cellars' Henry Hariyono cautions that the venue and mode of collaboration, as well as the selection of partners are key make-or-break factors.
He explains: "If you're in a wrong venue - somewhere not central or convenient for people to consider interesting - it could be problematic. Or if you tie up with a partner with similar offerings and become intra-competitive instead of extending the reach that you would otherwise have, then it would defeat the purpose of collaborating altogether."
Getting crafty with beers
A for Arbite, 28 Aliwal Street #01-01
WHAT do beer and poetry have in common?
Not much, it initially seems, but that didn't stop A for Arbite chef-owner Marc Wee from trying to marry the two - and more.
For this weekend only, Mr Wee is putting together Craft, a four-day celebration of craftsmen and artists in Singapore within the premises of his 60-seater restaurant along Aliwal Street.
Among the line-up of activities to be held today and tomorrow are poetry slams and writing workshops conducted by non-profit literary arts company, Word Forward, and local writer Samantha de Silva; a demonstration on the technology behind the latest 3D printing craze; as well as a child-friendly workshop on wooden dolls and cake toppers.
Foodies will get to sample artisan brews by local tea blenders, the Gryphon Tea Company, or go the whole hog in a food and craft beer pairing workshop co-presented by A for Arbite and craft beer importers, The Drinking Partners.
Most of the activities are free, except for the poetry workshop, which costs $20, and the wooden doll making class, and craft beer and food pairing session, which cost $30 per person each.
Poetry readings will run throughout the day, along with visual displays by design and textiles duo Fictive Fingers, local sculptor David "BlueWolfe" Liew, and American artist Lindsey Bailey.
Mr Wee said that the impetus for Craft struck him several months ago when he was toying with the idea of organising an Oktoberfest celebration. "But I thought what better way to showcase craft beers than with other craftsmen? Craft is a celebration of dedication, hard work and creativity," he adds.
A second aim, says Mr Wee, is to lure people away from conventional shopping centres to "come and see how things are made", explore the eclectic Kampong Glam neighbourhood and hopefully pick up a new hobby at the same time.
If all goes well, Craft will become a bi-annual event and future editions will feature more local brands and other craftsmen such as tattoo artists, terrarium builders and bike restorers, he adds.
- Craft is on from Sept 26-29 at A for Arbite. Purchase tickets from http://craft.peatix.com