A student-run pop-up thrift and consignment shop won $25,000 at The GW New Venture Competition last Thursday after winning four awards.
Sophomore and co-founder Anna Shah said with five pop-up shop events in Kogan Plaza and the textile museum, POP!, the student-run thrift store, entered the competition looking for additional revenue to expand the business they started last spring to other universities in the DMV. Shah said she and her co-founders – juniors Maya Levine, Rachel Cohen and Stephanie Cheung – work to empower customers to make environmentally and socially conscious purchasing decisions.
She said POP! has made commuting to Virginia for a good thrift store unnecessary by selling trendy and cheap second-hand clothing. Shah said since the team runs pop-up shops around campus, the group can function without a permanent storefront.
The four co-founders said they have been working since January to shift their business model to focus on bringing POP! to more buyers in the DMV by expanding to other campuses in the area like the University of Maryland and Georgetown and American universities.
“It was a very challenging experience, but it allowed us to grow so much closer as a team and just strengthen the team dynamic, which I think is honestly the most important thing to succeed as an entrepreneur,” Shah said.
This year, the New Venture Competition awarded $128,000 in grants to GW students pursuing new business, business technology and social venture tracks.
The competition welcomes experienced and new entrepreneurs to pitch their business plans to industry experts like professors and business owners.
POP! won $5,000 from the viewer’s choice award, which allows the public to vote for their favorite business online.
“We sent it to our high school teachers, our families, all of our different networks and I think we were able to really win that one because we’re all in different circles,” Shah said.
Shah, an international business major, presented the competition’s judges with a scalability plan – which included clear profit projections based on past sales – and earned the group $10,000.
“A lot of the grad school students had more projected ideas, like they weren’t actually executed yet,” Shah said. “It’s very hard to make projections when you have nothing to base it on.”
POP!’s finance model and business plan beat out graduate student organizations in most categories, and they also won $5,000 for best undergraduate team. They picked up an additional $5,000 for placing second in the social venture track, bringing their total earnings to $25,000.
Shah said the group’s long-term goal is to expand to universities across the country, and expand online in order to keep their customers buying after they graduate.
For now, Shah said the co-founders will work on turning POP! into a limited liability company, a business structure that protects its owners from liabilities or debts, so they can access their winnings. POP!’s final pop-up shop of the year will be held April 30 at the textile museum.