Launching an Apparel Pop Up Shop in 3 Days

The story behind a spontaneous new Fitness Apparel Pop Up Shop!

My first try at a business was in 2005, I ordered 500 shirts and travelled to local concerts in Ontario. Its name Amped Apparel and yes it was an epic failure. One day I will write about all my previous steps and mis-steps in entrepreneurship.

Not today, I’ve only included it here to give you context. I’ve continued to design t-shirts, jerseys and fitness apparel on request to this day. One annual milestone I look forward to designing for is the CrossFit Open.

Yes, I CrossFit. Yes, CrossFitters do wear shirts!

The Open is a 5-week event held yearly to kick off the CrossFit season for the professionals. For the majority of us it’s a time to benchmark your fitness and have a good time while doing it. It’s a celebration of fitness that unites the community! Past years I’ve sold t-shirts to the members of the affiliate (that’s what CrossFit calls their gyms) that I go to.

Physical sign-up sheet + e-transfer = happy customer

With this years new vision of building 19 projects, I thought I could take it a step further. I wanted to expand my reach. Why can’t I sell to other affiliates in the area? What about other cities? What about other countries? What about donating the profits back to the community?

The Problem: Time and not Enough of It

As I write this we are less than 30 days away from the start date of The Open. Everyday that I waited to launch was one less day I had a chance to sell. The logistics of an apparel company isn’t simple if you don’t have the equipment. You are a middle-person building your own supply chain.

The online solution is simple, get setup with Shopify and drive traffic. The problem is still the operation logistics. Do I use a service like Printful or Printify? Completely hands off but less margins. From my experience, buying and screen-printing would provide the highest margins. I was able to lean on my previous connections. This was the process;

  • Order blank apparel and ship to printer.

  • Coordinate print days and pick up days.

  • Pick up, package and then ship to customer.

Not a short process in an already short time-frame.

Setting the Scope

Since the focus is on a timed event and within a niche community, the idea of getting this up and running seems simple. I liked the idea of a time-boxed store, it helped build the parameters around the project.

You remember what shopping in a mall was like? Remember visiting the mall after the holiday season buzz. Wondering why some of the store doors are closed? Well, these are holiday pop up shops. Temporary businesses pay for one or two months rent, taking advantage of the holiday foot traffic.

This is exactly what this project is! It’s a specific time of the year when the community focuses on one single event that lasts 5 weeks. This is perfect, this provides the scope needed to get up and running. I set off to build a Fitness Apparel Pop Up Shop!

Where We Sweat is a domain I’ve been sitting on for a year now. I didn’t think much on this, I didn’t have time to come up with a new brand. This seemed relevant and I didn’t remember exactly why I bought it in the first place so let’s go!

I played around with a simple brand and colours. Was happy with getting something out there. I found some stock images that fit with the colour palette and brand. Given more time, I could refine the brand a little but it’s pretty solid.

Designing The 2021 Open Shirt

Not a surprise - this is the fun part! I usually give myself some time to work this out but this year it had a bigger purpose. I wanted this to be the communities Open Jersey! I wanted this project to unite the community. This year is unlike any other. We’ve been working out in our garages, basements, and living rooms for the past year. I wanted something to represent that we can be united and strong. I settled on #distanceBuildsStrength.

I also decided that this wasn’t about making money for myself - this was to support the community. I decided that all profits would go towards affiliates that were struggling. I would cover all costs to run the store.

For example; if the total cost (apparel material & print only) is $15 and it’s sold for $30. The difference of $15 is donated to the affiliate fund. I spoke with a member of CrossFit Canada to ensure that they would accept my donation.

Building an Apparel Pop Up Shop in 3 Days

  • Shopify was the obvious first choice. Shopify felt like too much work. I need a site that showcases a single product and sells to Canada.

  • Would GumRoad work with a physical product? It’s likely the simplest solution.

  • I experimented with Webflows ecommerce platform. I cloned a simple landing page and started building a quick mock-up. I liked the direction but for the monthly price and the lack of confidence that this was a scalable solution - I halted.

Alright Shopify is the best in the business for a reason. It still felt like it was more than I needed. More on this later ;)

I chose one of their minimal free themes Boundless. There are nice themes out there but this theme was perfect. It wasn’t build for a large store and was straight to the point. The theme editor is easy to use and having web design experience for sure speeds things up.

Setting up the engine of Shopify - Checkouts, Payment, Shipping, Products. I kept it very simple, no selling cross-border, a single currency. Shipping was a free local delivery option, and a flat shipping rate. I didn’t want to promise any express tiers. Accepted the standard payment processing types. I decided since I’m using Shopify I could expand a few more products. The above is all you need for an ecommerce site. That said, Shopify has way more to do and there is more distractions to make it feel a little more than it should.

This Got Me Thinking…

There is a need for a simpler setup. It might be time to start talking about unbundling Shopify.

For me I have experience with web design and this wasn’t too difficult to get up and running. Between setting up emails, custom domains, analytics, and advertising there is a lot of “ops” work to get up and running.

Is there a space for a “Pop Up Shop” ecommerce model?

The setup felt a little heavy, to be honest this isn’t specific to Shopify. To get any side hustle up and running there is a need for “ops work”. There are some tools that make it a little easier but it’s clunky. Hosting providers don’t make this easy. Online platforms are trying but they have their own setup to deal with.

What’s Next

Ecommerce success lives on marketing and sales. You ain’t selling anything unless you have eyes on. I’ve been spending my time creating content for instagram and facebook. Asking the community to support the cause! Reaching out to influencers and trying to create a little traction. I do believe the urgency and short time duration of the event does help gain a little traction. For now, if you do want to support the cause, please head over to Where We Sweat to buy today. If you want to stay updated, please follow the brand @wherewesweat.


There is no reason why I can’t continue to build the brand. Additionally, there is no reason why I can’t let the brand sit there until the same time next year. I’m not sure what I will do with this after it’s run it’s course for this specific event. I could build a more generic CrossFit brand and try to sell all year round. I could focus on the community and create content promoting different affiliates.

Project 02/19