West County Center pop-up store helps small, online retailers reach new customers | St. Louis Public Radio

West County Center pop-up store helps small, online retailers reach new customers

Dec 17, 2018

When four young entrepreneurs in Singapore realized that they needed to go beyond the internet to sell new products, they opened a store called We The People. The idea was to showcase creations that had gotten off the ground thanks to successful crowdfunding.

We The People opened its sixth store last month in St. Louis at the West County Center shopping mall. It’s the company’s first foray outside of Asia, and it plans to make St. Louis its U.S. headquarters. Founded in 2016, the company expects sales to surpass $1.5 million this year.

“We The People is a hub for creators,” said Joel Liew, one of the co-founders. “It’s made for creators by creators. We The People represents all these brands and all these startups with amazing ideas.”

The sleek, minimalist stores look something like an Apple Store. There are about 100 items on display at a time out of a curated inventory of more than 900 different products representing 150 brands from Asia, Europe and the U.S.

St. Louis-based Flipstik is one of the first local companies selected for the West County Center store.

Akeem Shannon demonstrates Flipstik, the crowdfunded product that he designed and developed in St. Louis.
Credit Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

“They’ve sold a ton of our product,” said Flipstik CEO and founder Akeem Shannon, who launched his company six months ago.

Flipstik is a plastic kickstand that adheres to the back of a smartphone and contains an adhesive that allows the user to stick the phone on any surface, repeatedly.

“People need to see our product to understand it,” Shannon said. We The People has become a distributor for Flipstik in Asia. The arrangement provides substantial savings on shipping costs.

Kim Plank, a veteran of the St. Louis startup community and a consultant, was not surprised that the Singapore-based company chose St. Louis for its American base. She said St. Louis’ reputation as one of the fastest-growing entrepreneurial ecosystems in the U.S. is well known.

Plank also said the company has made a good choice in location for connecting with consumers.

“West County mall is probably one of the highest-traffic shopping malls we have and one of the malls proving to be more sustainable than the others,” Plank said.

We The People co-founder Ryan Sim said he did his homework when researching where to launch in the U.S. He said St. Louis has the talent and the central location for the logistics they need.

“We did walk around Cortex and T-Rex,” he said. “But we did feel West County had something a bit special about it. The people who come here, they are our target market.”

Sim added the company connects local entrepreneurs to a global community of creators and provides retail exposure without the expense of opening their own stores.

“From what I understand, they’re really concentrating on training their sales staff to tell the story behind the product,” Plank said. “The sales people will be able to tell you the backstory about the creator.”

St. Louis-based serial entrepreneur Sarah Schlafly is looking forward to getting her story and newest product into the We The People store. Mighty Cricket makes cereal and pancake mix with crickets, because, it turns out, pulverized crickets are a great source of protein.

“When I have a successful crowdfunding campaign, then I can get in the store and they will be very intentional about helping me build my brand. So, I look forward to partnering with them in the future,” Schlafly said.

We The People is currently operating out of a pop-up store in the West County Center near the photo stand with Santa Claus. It plans to open a permanent store in the mall in January.

Follow Melody on Twitter @melodybird