Back-To-School Pop Up: How to Plan a Pop Up in NYC

This past summer, I took a long-anticipated leap and accomplished something that I’ve dreamed about doing ever since moving to New York. After attending pastry school back in 2016, I knew that I wanted to open a pastry shop someday, more than anything. Moving to New York opened my eyes to the concept of branded pop ups (something that I really never experienced in Chicago). Pop ups serve as an intermediate step to the brick-and-mortar dream; they allow brands to get their name out there before committing to a more permanent establishment. It seems that there’s always a pop up happening in NYC, and I desperately wanted to be a part of that frenetic, creative energy.

My “back-to-school” pastry pop up concept came about as I was serving cake and cocktails to friends in my Bushwick apartment over a year ago. I had decided to buy some Capri Sun Wild Cherry as a cocktail mixer and paired the cocktails with a light vanilla cake topped with drifts of luscious cherry buttercream. As I took sips from my blush-colored concoction, I thought about how interesting it would be to explore the juice box theme further; a nostalgic staple from my grade school lunchbox days. My back-to-school theme emerged, and it quickly took over my every creative minute. When it comes to forming your pop up concept, follow your initial inspiration; it can come when you least expect it. In this post, I wanted to share a few notes about my planning process that might help those of you who want to put together an event of your own.

Assemble your paperwork – To start, make sure that you have a Certificate of Food Protection, or equivalent for your state/area, as well as small business insurance. If you intend to serve alcohol at your pop up, be sure that your venue has the correct alcohol handling license.

Find a venue – Finding a venue was the most difficult part of the pop up process for me. It’s known that New York restaurants look to collaborate with small food businesses during their off hours, but the New York rental rates were disheartening, to put it lightly. I suggest avoiding Manhattan entirely if you’re putting together your first event in the New York area. I lucked out when a friend in the industry recommended the lovely Cook Space Brooklyn, which happened to be right around the corner from my apartment. Their standard event rental rate is $250/hour. Their kitchen space is available for prep time rental as well for $50/hour. With an open kitchen and a beautiful Noguchi lamp overlooking a cozy dining area, the decision to go with Cook Space was an easy one. There are certainly other Brooklyn venues out there to consider; pick a space that pairs well with your concept.

Spread the word – Selling tickets ahead of time will allow you to best prepare by making the correct amount of your product (in my case, cake). Utilize boosted Instagram and Facebook posts to target individuals in your area with similar interests. Urge friends to spread the word on social media. Use every social opportunity to share your excitement about the event. That last part shouldn’t be hard, as your pop up will likely consume your thoughts as the event draws near.

Get sponsored – There are enough costs to putting together a pop up without factoring in recipe testing and food costs into the mix. It’s possible to obtain sponsors for your event, especially if you have a strong following on social media. It will never hurt you to reach out to brands for potential sponsorship. When you send out a sponsorship inquiry, be sure to share your social media engagement rate, a little bit about your brand and event goals, and how many people you expect will attend your pop up. Know how much product you will need for a successful pop up, and feel free to share that information as well. In exchange, offer to promote sponsor information on all of your promotional materials. I was lucky enough to collaborate with some brands that I love: Brins Jam & Marmalade, Kerrygold USA, and King Arthur Flour.

Develop your recipes – This was the most enjoyable part of pop up preparation for me. I love experimenting with flavor combinations, and if you’re a chef, it’s likely that you will be most engaged with this part of the process (and find that it doesn’t take too long). Inspired by Orange Tang, Hi-C Flashin’ Fruit Punch, and Grape Juicy Juice, I created three fruit-forward cake and cocktail pairings. I tested and finalized recipes over the span of a month.

Pay attention to detail – The small details matter! Creating an immersive space is just as important and creating your product. I collaborated with graphic designer Andy Chan to create two larger-than-life photo backdrops that looked like notebook paper with gel pen doodles. Other finishing touches included board games, a chalkboard menu, a hopscotch design taped onto the floor in the entryway, back-to-school name tags for each guest, and “permission slips” that served as event admission tickets.

Adjust expectations – It’s likely that your pop up won’t make a profit, but that’s not its purpose. Its purpose is to collect content and establish your brand as an entity capable of organizing and executing large-scale events. Utilize your pop up momentum in unexpected ways. Make connections with future clients and supportive brands. And, despite the amount of work you’ll put into it, don’t lose sight of having fun! Creating a pop up was truly one of the most valuable things I’ve done for myself and my pastry career. I’m so thankful for all of the support I received from my friends during the preparation process.

Feel free to comment with any questions you might have! And if you put together a pop up, I’d love to hear about it.

xx Hadley

Ups, Downs, and My Peach Upside Down Cake

I have butterflies about sharing my upcoming plans because there isn’t a simple path to success ahead… just my sheer willpower. I just turned 26 (still young, I know…) but it feels like I’m working against the clock to get my life started. Anxiety over when will I figure “it all” out is rampant. The only thing that’s keeping me sane is knowing that somehow, I’m getting closer and closer to the answer.

It doesn’t really make me feel less anxious to know that millennials are constantly hopping from job to job. It’s apparently a hallmark of the times. I may be happy-go-lucky Hadley Go Lucky, but the tumult underneath is REAL.

My past few years of sparkling, dazzling, gritty, defeating life in NYC have been full of growth and strength, even though it doesn’t always feel like it. Though it’s still a constant process, I’m healing and rising above some pretty unsettling health problems (erm… remember that time when I literally had tendonitis in both wrists from a combination of fibromyalgia and repetitively frosting cupcakes?)

Since those early pastry/fibromyalgia days, I’ve worked as a food stylist, helped to develop recipes for a bakery that I love, and survived a social media marketing job that tested my limits in every way. With a little boost from Cherry Bombe’s Cherry Bombe University last year (I had the opportunity to compete in their cookie bake-off!), I gained the confidence to quit my desk job and return to the New York dream of owning my own pastry company. The next step of my journey is a cake and cocktail/mocktail pop up in my Brooklyn neighborhood at the end of this month, celebrating nostalgia and back-to-school memories. I’m so excited to share fruity flavor pairings that I can’t get enough of.

Amidst all of these exhilarating landmarks of life, I’ve started building brand partnerships, studying the ever-shifting social media landscape, and am constantly seeking the most uplifting people that I can learn from. It’s a daunting task, but I try to learn a new thing every day.

I’m proud to be launching Hadley Go Lucky, the brand, in a very official way at last. And I’d love to help others out there who are looking to leverage social media to promote and build something that they love. In the coming months, I hope to not only share some of the pastry projects that I’m working on, but also provide tips for those of you who want to fashion your life in a similar way. I may very well be going through some of the same things as you; we are the side-hustle generation, after all! Let’s help each other.  I’m so excited to cover some of the following topics in the next few months:

  • How to get sponsors
  • How to create a branded pop-up
  • How to attract positive mentors
  • How to start a business
  • How to get the word out
  • How to leverage pastry school experience in the real world
  • How to leverage industry experience to do things your own way

The trick to getting anywhere you want to be is starting now. Between three restless years in NYC, I feel that I’m finally on track for accomplishing my goals. I put in the work and want to help you. Please do share your business goals in the comments, or topics that you want to learn more about!

On the topic of learning, I’ve whipped up a sweet recipe for you to try. A sweet friend of mine said that this cake was actually the best she had ever had in her life… so I am VERY pumped to share it!  This fine Stone Fruit Season, I decided to develop this Peach Upside Down Cake. The “Upside Down” seemed like an accurate metaphor for the constant ups and downs that come along with entrepreneurship.  This cake has a coffee cake consistency; it’s easy to make a few slices disappear over breakfast.  Bright peach slices cook to tender perfection when mixed with a thick brown sugar topping. Stone fruit season doesn’t last long – what are you waiting for?

Scroll down for the recipe!

 

 

Peach Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced peaches, with skin
  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 additional cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup half and half 
  • crème fraîche, for serving 
Instructions: 
  1. Heat 1/2 cup butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, stirring until sugar and butter are completely combined. Spread this mixture evenly in your pan.
  2. Cut peach slices and arrange them evenly over brown sugar mixture. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In a stand mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter on medium to high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in granulated sugar.
  5. Add egg and vanilla, beating until combined. Alternately add the flour mixture and cream to beaten butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.
  6. Spread batter evenly over the peaches in the pan.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.
  8. Loosen cake from sides of pan; invert onto a large plate.
  9. Serve warm with crème fraîche, if desired. (I actually enjoyed it even more after the cake was chilled in the fridge!)