We successfully completed a prototype of a next-generation cube marketplace model and would like to discuss our findings with brothas and sistas to understand the business model and the opportunities. We are looking at a pilot here in Atlanta as the next step. Cube shops are not new on this blog and you will find extensive coverage of the business model on this blog if you do a search. In this article, we are going to briefly discuss the cube shop model and how the model was next-gen’d by the 3rd Strategic Institute to create opportunity for our African-American youth as well as other young adults around the world to start their first micro-retailing entrepreneurial venture.
A cube shop is basically a self-service consignment shop where a micro-vendor pays a monthly rental fee to place their items in a “cube” space. Another term that is used is “consignment cube” but there is not really a good defined name for this micro-retailing model. The cube shop is usually located in a high-traffic area like a mall or high street and the aggregated revenue generated from the rent of the cubes is like a “collective” to have small micro-merchant have a footprint and visibility. Cube shops existed in high density areas such as Tokyo then migrated to Hong Kong then throughout China and the Asian area. Recently, one country the 3rd Strategic Institute notice that picked up on the cube shop model was Brunei like the image you see above.
I wrote plenty of article explaining how the micro-mall works in high-density urban areas like Tokyo and Hong Kong and mention this model can only work in two places in the USA – high-density black and Latino urban cities. I also explain only we brothas and sistas can truly leverage this consignment cube model and make it work here in America, no other group can do this. Yes, other groups in America tried and failed hard because they simply did not have the density to make the cube shop model work. But I was largely ignored by the black community over the years but I never gave up on this model to empower our people as micro-entrepreneurs in high-density hoods.
Researching the cube shop model over the years, one of the problems we saw, especially in China was the rent issue and the “shop hop” issue where people setup a cube shop, the landlord raise the rent, another cube shop open up offering less rent and cube tenants run to the next spot. The second issue was the actual stuff you see in the cubes like the following image:
Notice how messy and cluttered the cube shops are and some cube shops are actually empty in this example. This is disorderly and not easy on the eyes and just look like a hot mess and probably would turn off people passing by. From what I see here, it looks like the entire inventory of the cube vendor is stuffed in the cube itself. Also, look at the numbering system – and also very unpleasant to look at. I believe what I see from the picture above, the cube vendor stuff their inventory in a cube, they are assigned a “key” to manage their cube space and the store operators may open the space with their key in order to sell a product to a customer on consignment. So this is really a utility-based business model and the generic presentation and straight consignment arrangement is why so many cube shops failed because it was basically a race to the bottom.
However, in Singapore an ad agency created this diorama with a QR code for a nail polish gel to just slide into a cube space at a high-traffic cube shop as a pop-up marketing gimmick. The thing was the result of this marketing campaign was wildly successful and the exhibit you see above was awarded a top prize of best marketing campaign for being innovative and effective. I personally reached out to Grey Communications in Singapore and they offered me more than enough information on this campaign, including a behind-the-scene video of how they created this and marketed this – isn’t that cool? This cube exhibit concept is what inspired us to take the entire cube shop model to the next level and over the years, I create the final result that is the concept model I’m presenting.
In our concept of the next generation consignment cube shop, we made several improvements to the business model:
Luxury Exhibit. We abandoned the generic white shelving systems for deeper wood for the shelving. Notice the tiled “flooring” to add uniqueness to the cube display and the shoe has a designer back wall to give the cube character. We also used lighting from the side to give some rich shadowing to the items featured in the cube.
Mobile Interaction. The QR code label is transparent not disrupting the view of the cube but noticeable to take action. Now here is one thing I first thought was a problem but now realize is really cool. I found it hard to get the QR to work standing in front but when I scanned from the side and others scanned it from the side, we noticed this made us go up close to the cube and move around, creating human movement around the cube and this made us interested – we feel this dynamic seeing someone using their mobile phone to scan a cube from the side was a plus to engage people to interact with the cube and we definitely going to leave this the way it is.
Now each of the cube items is actually a story to tell – it is the story of how your African-American youth entrepreneurs in your black community can do for self and since I got you here reading this article, I’m going to start telling you the story of how our black youth can get their hustle up.
This is a personal beauty care company started by a young African-American lady who learned to make homemade artisan creams and gels reading the Internet. This collection is actually for men who want the freshest face in the room and this is actually offered as a set package in a nice gift box. Notice on this image, there is an LED light under the flooring platform. So a young sista can easily start up her beauty company and sell her items out of cube shops all around in the hood at beauty salons and barbershops for example. She can also start a subscription box service this way.
The car club was created by a very young brotha who like to collect cars that you pull back and race. All of the kids in his school like to collect these cars and race them during lunch for each other lunch money. So when a kid goes to the barbershop or a waiting area like an auto repair shop and see the cars on display, the kid can ask his momma or daddy to buy him one of the cars helping that little kid running his first cube shop make money. Notice we use a brown tile (this are the 12×12 1.49/piece tiles from Home Depot or Lowes) and a retail fixture we got from a retail fixture shop to display the cards on multiple levels.
This is something an African-American teen decided to do was make paracord wristbands and hustle them around town in a cube shop. Paracords are actually popular and after learning how to make them, can be a fun hobby for kids to do. They even have some wooden paracord creating machine out there that makes creating them very fast and clean. Here we used a white tile (which does an excellent job as a base) and a bracelet fixture we got from the fixture store but that is all that is needed. Noticed no clutter and you know what you looking at in the cube. This is how a modern cube shop model should look. Keep in mind some girls out there make bracelets and can run this type of operation with bracelets having a lot of charms on it.
Here is a model similar to the demo on Kossier where a young brotha can sell sneaks though cube shops where one is on display and the other one can be picked up or delivered. Notice the granite tile and the backwall is complimentary to the shoe itself. For each shoe on display on different cubes across town, there are different floor and backwall schemes to bring the display out to grab the attention of potential buyers. So in this example, a kid can find some cool rare finds and basically hustle them through cube shops instead of trade directly with cats where there is more risks involved.
So as you see in each of these examples, our African-American youth has a marketplace to start selling items to the black community within the black community. Now for our concept, our expenses came out for the cost to be $35/cube to build. We believe the rental rate should be $35/month so it looks like the cube will pay for itself from the first month rent and generate profit afterwards. However, our math suggest that a cube shop cannot stand alone as a store model as a store-based cube consignment shop will need to fill up hundreds of cubes to pay rent and salary. I believe this model work best paired up at an existing establishment as a way to offer something for sell from the local black micro-entrepreneurs at waiting areas throughout the black community.
I will discuss the cube shop model more on our Swagg-Scientific.com web site with more detailed results but here is the cool part – this is a cloud-based solution and blockchain solution. We hosting this on the cloud means we can launch this operation anywhere in the world including Brunei because all they have to do is scan QR codes and assign vendors to a specific cube ID in our cloud-based database. For the blockchain, everybody including the vendor, the operator, the establishment can view a transaction and receive their proper payment and commissions in real-time with full transparency.
Once again, another technology solution real cats like me bringing to the black community creating quick/fast economic solutions. While other cats are just talking up black empowerment and just bumping their gums, the Afro-Tech got real research and real pictures to show and tell we really about the upliftment and betterment of our people – the Afro-Tech is owning this black empowerment movement right now and no one on the corners got swagger like us.