File Image: IOL
File Image: IOL

A talent to improvise

By Roz Wrottesley Time of article published Apr 27, 2020

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Linette Jacobson is a 65-year-old single woman who has worked but never had a career, so she has  never accumulated financial assets. What she does have is the ability to improvise – a valuable skill in these tough times. After running a tiny pop-up shop in town in the run-up to the lockdown, she is planning to rise again by running a monthly mini-market at her home. 

“I think the shock of this virus has just confirmed for me that self-employed is the safest way to be – the harder you work, the more you are rewarded. Who is secure in employment? It can be a dead end.  You’ve got to be adaptable and flexible; does anyone expect uneventful years any more?

In this economic climate, I think recycling and repurposing things is the way to go. We all have to consume less. I’ve been wanting to declutter ever since I turned 60. That’s my main thing: I’m always trying to get rid of all this stuff I don’t use, or don’t wear. We all leave too much behind and it’s not fair to leave other people to sort it out. I’ve never married and have no family, so my friends would have to deal with it!  

The only asset I have is my home, which I inherited six years ago … that and my little car, which I’ve had for more than a decade. But I’m very lucky: I have no long-term debt and a tenant on the same property provides me with a basic income I can get by on. But I do need extra money. I think we all do.     

I have felt insecure about money all my life actually, because I’ve never earned much.  So at a time like this, I will miss my friends more than money. I can’t explain why I didn’t have a career; it just didn’t happen. I worked in rentals for an estate agent, I’ve done theatre, worked for a shipping company, been front-of-house in restaurants. I always enjoyed working with people, but I couldn’t stand being stuck in one place for a whole day.  I think I just always needed my freedom. 

Many years ago, I worked in a very beautiful shop and that left me wanting one of my own. And I did have one eventually, selling pretty décor items. It was wonderful and I could have done it forever, but then roadworks disrupted the area and I had to close.   

For a while, after moving into my house and finding a tenant, I did nothing, just because I could. But it can be very challenging being alone at home and having no extra money. I made a few foodie things that I could sell, but nothing major. Then this tiny shop was advertised cheaply for two months, between tenancies.  I always wanted another shop, but normal rents in this area are crazy - at least R11 000 a month – and landlords would rather have an empty shop than reduce the rent. I don’t make that much in a month. So that was that. Until this space came up and I realised I could have a shop and scale down at the same time. 

I was so excited. My mother had all these beautiful old things like embroidered tablecloths; I use some of them, but I’m selling the rest. I had a collection of lovely teapots, but the two I’ve got now are enough; the others went to people who saw them and loved them.  Most of us have clothes we don’t wear any more, or we don’t fit into. If you’ve loved them and they are good quality, what do you do with them? This way they can be re-used for much less money than they would cost new and generate an income.  And you ‘d be amazed how energising it is to declutter, once you start. 

So I negotiated the rent down even more, brought furniture from my home for displaying the goods and an artist friend made me a beautiful sign, using my name, that I can hang up anywhere. And I’m not tied down as I would be with a permanent shop.  I open late – 11am – and close on Sundays and Mondays, which means I don’t have to employ anyone to sit in the shop.  I enjoy displaying everything and I’ve always got things to do while sitting in my little corner.  I absolutely love it. 

I had heard that young people were moving to this area because it’s still quite affordable and I wondered where they were. Now I have met them. They are very into buying the second-hand clothing, because they feel they are saving the environment.  I love the interaction with people. Friends and customers bring me things to sell. I give them an amount for a bag full of clothes, or choose the items of jewellery or the collectibles I want, and I resell them. 

It’s such fun, and I get such a good reaction that I’m going to sell from home in future. I’ll do foodie items as well, and organic veggies. So it’ll be a pop-up market people who know about me can come to on the first Saturday of every month to shop for food, veggies, clothes … whatever I have available at the time. I’ll make sure there is always something surprising.  

It’s a low-cost option at a time when I can’t afford to get into any more debt.  I bought stock to resell a week before the virus hit; now I can’t sell it and my credit card is the only emergency fund I have.    

But I try very hard not to worry too much; stress is the biggest thing we all need to work on – all the time, not only during this crisis.  I try to be grateful for things in the here and now. And I’m hopeful for my business ultimately. I am more inclined to buy groceries from small grocers and little businesses now, not only to support them, but also because they are less crowded. I’m convinced that, after the lockdown, that kind of thinking will apply to my pop-up shop at home." 


Not only do pop-up shops create opportunities, but they invigorate shopping areas by filling empty spaces, according to the online magazine Female Entrepreneur SA. Contributor Liz Wiley offers the following tips:

  • There are landlords for whom any income is better than none, so keep trying till you find one of those.  
  • Have a clear plan for how the shop will look and, if you have a record in shop management, have the evidence ready. Nervous landlords need convincing that you know what you are doing.
  • Look for a short-term lease that includes insurance and service charges and has break clauses.   
  • You don’t need to spend a fortune fitting out the premises. Current retail trends are minimalist and industrial – ideal when you’re on a tight budget. Check pinterest for ideas.  
  • A PVC banner makes for an eye-catching sign, lasts for years and packs away easily.
  • Getting paid has never been easier. You can use an iPad or mobile phone to collect payment, or, for added customer security, you can use a card reader that links to a mobile app.
  • Attract attention! Have a little launch event for friends and neighbours; use A-stands on the pavement; let music waft out into the street; use social media to promote your shop.    
  • Make sure you have a way of keeping in touch with your customers in future. From day one, have a method of collecting email addresses and hand out flyers with your (permanent) contact details.  


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