Cassandra Riene’s startup helps businesses find short-term commercial rental and pop up shop spaces in Singapore
BITSY is a platform that instantly connects business owners with pop up shop, commercial and event space rental opportunities across Singapore.
In this bustling business region where rents are high and space is limited, entrepreneurs can now add something different to their marketing and business strategies by renting interesting spaces in restaurants, cafes and shop houses on a short-term, or ‘pop up’ basis.
And with the rise in popularity of the ‘pop up’ concept, BITSY is satisfying this growing demand by helping business owners find spaces to showcase their products, hold events and boost sales in a creative and affordable way.
By setting up a pop up shop, entrepreneurs for example, can explore new marketing strategies and and enjoy reasonable rental rates. They can also test out their ideas on-site by joining customers in-store and enjoy minimal overheads.
Fashion retailers can also meet customers in person and increase brand awareness as the seasons change.
After signing up and exploring the inventory available on BITSY renters can connect directly with landlords and book their space with a click of a button.
Long rental contracts and the burden of hefty deposits are now a thing of the past, whilst insurance, legalities and payment processes are streamlined and pain-free.
Renters can even book the space of their dreams for just a few hours.
Here, founder, Cassandra Riene tells Nativa World how BITSY came to life, plus why she thinks setting up a pop up shop can be a game-changer for the entrepreneur who prefers to think out of the box…
Cassandra, what does the word ‘Achieve’ mean to you?
To accomplish something impactful– no matter how big or small– that one sets out to do.
How did BITSY come to life?
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. However, after facing a couple of failures while testing various ideas before graduation, I thought perhaps it would serve me well to gain some experience in the corporate world before attempting again.
Ironically, I ended up doing really well in the advertising agency sector, contrary to my previous failed attempts as an aspiring entrepreneur. As I made my progress up the corporate ladder, it became harder to leave and start my own business – considering the opportunity cost, comfort of familiarity and fear of failure. It was a constant struggle as I was feeling really unfulfilled at work. Funny enough, when I asked around, it seems like most of my colleagues and even bosses felt the same!
Come one random weekend, when my husband and I walked past a restaurant that only operates at night and I rambled on about how it was such a waste being underutilized (since rent is crazily expensive in Singapore) and that I would really like to run my own cafe.
My husband suggested to check with the restaurant owner if they are open to sub-letting it during their non-operating hours and test out my cafe’s menu. The thought triggered another idea. ‘What if, anyone could rent an underutilized space to test their idea? What if, businesses could test a product before committing to a space? What if, space owners could reduce overheads by maximizing underutilized spaces?’ So I took the leap and I left advertising. In 2016, BITSY was born.
What problem does BITSY solve?
BITSY is a one-stop solution to allow individuals and businesses to find space for their ideas, while helping space owners to maximize their underutilized spaces. We also have an in-house team which helps these space owners or renters to market their brands.
What type of customer does BITSY attract?
Entrepreneurs, business owners, corporates, creative agencies and production houses. Anyone who is looking for beautiful or interesting spaces to test their products, host an event or show a film.
Why do pop up shops and pop up events benefit businesses?
With the boom of e-commerce, consumers are well versed in online shopping and are more impatient which makes it difficult for brick and mortar retailers to catch up. It also doesn’t make sense for brands to be in a physical space all year round if they update their products every 3 months. Customers would have already bought the items via an online store somewhere around the world.
Online space has now become over-saturated while offline spaces aren’t proficiently used. Physical space should be used by brands to interact with customers and provide an experience to build customer loyalty; rather than a sales channel. Ecommerce stores or brands who want to stay ahead, can use the uncluttered offline channels to drive traffic to their online channel – which should now be the main sales channel.
Therefore not just pop up shops, but also experiential events will benefit brands and business in the current market. Besides, pop up events are also more cost efficient in testing new products, locations and are easily customized to target specific audiences.
How has your startup journey been thus far?
It has been such an amazing and enriching experience that I could never had gotten, whether in corporate or taking up an MBA. To be honest, there’s nothing that I’ve regretted. I’ve made mistakes definitely. However, I feel any mistakes that I’ve made along the way served as part of the greater learning journey.
What’s your background in business?
My maternal great-grandfather was a successful businessman, so was my grandfather and mother. My father was a poor farmer’s boy who later made it by his own to C-level in a global MNC. There was a lot of pressure for me to perform and succeed while growing up.
Consider it as an influence by my family’s background or inborn, I’ve always been entrepreneurial in my own ways even in my teenage years. The first ‘deal’ I made was offering a hair trimming service to my high school mates and getting lunch paid for in return. Later in college, I tried setting up fashion blog shops using money earned from tutoring juniors.
After graduating in Fashion Management, I proceeded to set up an art gallery and later parted ways with the shareholders. That was also the time when I decided that I wanted to gain experience in business and brands that are successful within the shortest period of time, and working in advertising agencies seemed like the best avenue to do so.
The experience from the corporate world became valuable to me in terms of networking and brand knowledge – which gave me a better grasp when I started BITSY.
What are your long and short term goals for the business?
Short Term- To be the top of mind brand for businesses who are looking for space and resources for their ideas around Asia.
Long Term – Same as the above, but global.
Who inspires you in business?
Self-made entrepreneurs who started off with no investments or funds from their family. I find them really inspiring and impressive, as they built their empires from scratch with their hard work and grit – every cent put in hiring the right employees, sustaining operations and scaling the business are earned but not given.
What do you miss most of all when you’re away from home on business?
My kids and husband. They are an extended part of me – to me it’s like you’d probably miss your arm if it went missing for a few days!
What do you always carry in your suitcase?
- Emergency face masks (Those that salvage a bad night’s sleep!)
BB Cream – I personally use Dr Jart, Dr Wu or Ettusais
- A good book – fiction usually, to unwind and take my mind off work
- Lip gloss – Dior Lip Gloss
- A travel-sized perfume – I love Hermès Eau de Toilette Un Jardin sur le Toit
Cassandra’s Startup Tips:
- If you believe in something, just do it. Test it and just do something about it
- Your team needs to resonate and believe in what your startup’s purpose/idea is
- Build meaningful relationships with other founders and your clients
- Give value before asking for any
- Don’t be afraid to be different
Cassandra’s Tips For Pop Up Shop Success:
- Be creative, adventurous and get out of your comfort zones – it may yield unexpected results and learnings.
- Understand your consumer or form hypotheses of where you think your consumer will be hanging out, and then test it!
- Maximise usage of your short term space by engaging help from event marketing specialists like BITSY which helps you on event management and online-to-offline strategy.
Photography courtesy of BITSY & Cassandra Riene