The poundshop is an organisation intent on spreading design to a wide audience by making it affordable and accessible. It was begun in April 2010 by George Wu and Sara Melin with Sarah Gottlieb, it was created when they were discussing how much they loved design orientated shop and it was originally a joke to set up a poundshop.


But it became a huge project and turned into a real exhibition and a huge challenge to set up a poundshop for design. This talk was incredibly inspiring in terms of eleviating the fear of starting your own design business or working for yourself. Because the poundshop is an excellent way of testing out new and interesting products on a small scale with very little risk and low overheads because you only produce on a small scale. They have a pop up shop online that lets people purchase products online, although this has been difficult and had its problems because it was mentioned that postage and packaging for small objects was inneffecient cost wise. But their products have now been sold all over the work and designers who submit work to them some have gone on to design for places like the V&A and Selfridges!

There are many pro’s to setting up business in the way the Poundshop have such as:
low risk because as a pop up shop you don’t pay rent. prices can be small too which can attract buyers, and the Poundshop originally took only 10% because all items were a pound, which is great news for the designers and artists! It also is a benefit to designers because its a way of getting your name out there with minimal risk but clearly a lot of publicity from what is now a very successful company!

It is a shame that the web shop wasn’t as successful with the lower priced products but it’s impressive that this company are willing to try all things to grow their business, sometimes it can be unnerving to go in new directions but this company are willing to take risks, and they take smart risks that have minimal overheads so that in case things go wrong they can still continue to grow in other ways.

How the pound shop works is that it takes submissions from designers for each pop up shop they do, they ask designers to create something that costs no more than 50p to make and can be mass produced and the designer gets to receive 90% of the profits. It needs to be something innovative and a stimulating piece of design and they often have specific themes for their pop up shops, the last two had the themes of “Travel” and “Christmas” and i would love to have submit something to these but they are unfortunately closed now, but i will definitely keep an eye out for the next submission announcement. Below is a list of some of the types of product they accept, the rule is that these products must have an element of functionality to them:

  • notebooks
  • prints
  • cards ( although not many of these are accepted)
  • calenders
  • socks and small clothing items
  • cookware/ dinnerware
  • small furnishings such as cushions
  • posters ( although not many again)
  • jewelry
  • decorations
  • gifts

Sara talked about how important it is that the object being sold is a quality piece of design that isn’t just a thing to buy because its cheap, she spoke about the best things to sell being creative and clever things because you are a creative person trying to sell to other creative people. I really liked how this business runs, because its such a clever idea that benefits designers and the company alike, it takes the pretension out of the business and makes excellent pieces of design accessible for everybody and its something i had never before considered possible on such a cheap scale with so many benefits. Sara’s talk was full of inspiration and encouragement and opened a world of business to me i had considered but found intimidating before, and now i’m motivated to start thinking about my work as not just pieces of art or illustration intended for books and other outlets, but sellable consumer products that can be cleverly designed. I will take from this talk a lot of smart business advice and inspiration from a very enterprising group of people that have continued to grow their business and now have had:

  • 10 shops in places such as Bethnal Green, Somerset House, Selfridges, Manchester and AMAZINGLY : shibuya in Tokyo and now St Petersburg in Russia- this business is really going places and becoming internationally reknowned.

They dont just sell things for a pound anymore because for the business to grow profit had to grow, they now sell things for £1, £5 and £10 and i think this is a reasonable ask because as the prices grow so do the types of products they can sell and where they can sell them. I think being able to sell in such a vibrant city as Tokyo is fantastic and i’d love to submit something to a shop for out there because i think my love for their culture could help me create something that may appeal to Japanese creatives.


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