Ilona Taillade, CEO and Founder of Six and Sons

Ilona Taillade is the CEO and Founder of Six and Sons, a phygital retail platform for sustainable brands and entrepreneurs. She is also a RETHINK Retail 2024 Top Retail Expert, Brand Launch and Retail Market Entry Advisor.

Ilona Taillade is the CEO and Founder of Six and Sons

How did the pop-up concept evolve from its inception to its current form? 

I have been working with pop-ups since 2007. I envisioned establishing a store that operates on a permanent pop-up model catering to sustainable brands and entrepreneurs. I collaborated with Leon Goldwater, the founder of We Are Pop Up, which is a marketplace and matchmaking platform.

In 2007 pop-up stores were in their infancy and seen purely as vacancy management in Europe, and we struggled to get property owners to take us seriously about this highly effective format.


Initially, pop-ups were only considered for kiosk formats and were seen as more of a headache with little return as most property owners wanted 5 to 15-year leases. It took almost a decade for this concept to become acceptable to the market and for property owners to see the true value of pop-ups. 



Today Six and Sons is a unique "concept store" and online platform that allows sustainable brands to enter the Dutch market. We curate over 170 local and international brands, many of whom started as pop-ups. 


We act as an incubation platform and have created a community for brands which in turn helps them get into other retail stores.
Six and Sons has helped brands reach sustainably focused consumers to build brand awareness and enables them to grow their presence in the market while aligning with their values. We are now inundated with brands wanting to enter the store. 


As the Founder, I also mentor the brands, offering personal assistance when starting in the store. Customers receive a personalised and immersive shopping experience, and sustainable products are available at competitive prices. Our mission is to build a community of like-minded individuals uniting independent brands with mindful customers.



What is the business model of Six & Sons and how does it differ from traditional retail stores?

Most customers are unaware that it is a permanent pop-up, our goal is to tell the story about the Brands we host and the store. At Six and Sons, we provide brands with a three-month trial period to showcase their products in our store and webshop. This setup offers customers the opportunity to discover novel and uncommon brands and products. With each visit, they can expect a fresh experience as new items are continually introduced to our shelves. 


We refer to our business model as "phygital," meaning that we have an online and offline presence, and both platforms provide a high opportunity to showcase and sell. 


We organise showcases, exhibitions, and events in our retail space. We train our staff to communicate the story, and their role is to connect with customers as well as to provide brands feedback about their products from customer interaction to help improve their product or service. 

We consider events to be an essential part of our permanent pop-up. When we take on a brand, which is usually local or European, we ask them to participate in a "Meet the Maker" session. This allows our team to get to know the story of the independent designer and artist, and it also provides the entrepreneur the opportunity to connect with customers. 


We have gained recognition for our cacao ceremonies, which, despite not fitting the conventional definition of events or exhibitions, while cooperating with the Rhumaa Cacao brand, as an anchor brand in our store renowned for its ceremonial quality, our customers engage in unique experiences of discovery of the product and its health benefits. 


Our store serves as a platform for sustainable brands, featuring both established and emerging ones to introduce new products or cater to niche markets. Crucially, it serves as a testing ground to gauge customer feedback. Notable brands we've collaborated with include Puka Tea, Fatface, Divine Chocolates, Homecore, WelterShelter, Veja, Qwstion, Lemmo Bikes and many others.


Six and Sons store


How do you handle the challenges of overseeing a pop-up retail space, given the diverse range of tasks it entails, including fostering community engagement, building brand awareness, managing backend operations, and adapting to different cultures?

Managing a pop-up retail space is akin to orchestrating a symphony of diverse responsibilities, ranging from fostering community connections to enhancing brand recognition and ensuring seamless backend operations. At Six and Sons, we've transformed the concept of pop-ups by establishing a permanent presence, but it definitely wasn’t easy, as it's about crafting an immersive brand experience. We're essentially juggling online, offline, and inventory management, comparable to running multiple businesses under one roof. 


We've pioneered the concept of micro pop-ups, offering emerging brands a platform to test the waters and refine their offerings. Cultural nuances play a crucial role, especially when expanding into new territories. Pop-ups serve as invaluable incubators for budding brands, offering them a springboard to success while providing consumers with unforgettable experiences. 


For property owners, it should not just be about filling vacant spaces; instead, it is about infusing the High Street with novelty, excitement, and rejuvenation, benefiting the entire ecosystem.



What are the prospects for the pop-up industry, and how do you see Six and Sons in the future?

The future of the pop-up industry is promising, especially in conjunction with e-commerce. Pop-ups have evolved into strategic marketing tools, offering brands an efficient way to drive buzz and engage consumers offline. Their ability to create urgency and exclusivity makes them valuable for testing new markets or concepts, particularly for brands with online presence seeking to strengthen their offline connection.

As consumers increasingly seek meaningful in-person experiences, pop-ups provide a unique opportunity for brands to interact directly with their audience, complementing their e-commerce strategies.


Six and Sons will shortly start securing investment to strengthen our position as an online marketplace with the expansion of our physical stores throughout Europe and the Middle East regions.


The strategy is to find investment and funding to grow and expand this community-focused concept throughout Europe. A concept that has already proven successful in the Netherlands, and the company is confident that it will be equally viable in other cities such as London, Paris, and Berlin cities in the Middle East. 

In developing a vision focused on sustainability, we're not just creating a business; we're forming a heritage of positive influence and durability. By joining our efforts and committing to responsible practices, we're paving the way for a sustainable future that works harmoniously with our planet's needs, benefits communities, and encourages a new era of conscientious living. We are building a community!

Article written by: Natalia Romanova

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