When Lauren Bush Lauren founded FEED more than a decade ago, the term “social entrepreneur” was just entering the American vernacular. Companies like TOM’s Shoes and the (RED) Campaign were popping up as consumers began to realize they could and should vote with their dollars.
But the new category of impact-driven companies was slow to innovate and evolve, as Bush Lauren openly admits.
“It’s a lesson learned: For the first several years of FEED we had only one or two styles that hearkened back to the first bag,” explained Bush Lauren. “When I designed the first bag I wanted it to be connected to the cause… it’s utilitarian and rugged to look like the bags of food rations. But we were losing some of those repeat customers that already had that FEED bag.”
After developing a myriad of product offerings, Bush Lauren is looking to continue to reinvent the brand by taking the ecommerce company into brick-and-mortar locations nationwide. The first-ever physical location opened up last year in the trendy Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn. The shop and cafe offers food, coffee and FEED products, in addition to hosting civic-minded events.
Bush Lauren claims that the store has been wildly successful, with the location’s gross profit up nearly 35% from 2017. Additionally, since opening they’ve seen over 60% of customers making repeat purchases.
The store is about more than making money, though. It’s a chance to access new customers and test out new products in a way not available when operating exclusively as an ecommerce company.
“It was a leap of faith, to some extent, but I still very much believe in brick-and-mortar. It just needs to be done differently,” says Bush Lauren. “To have that physical R&D lab to test things out and talk to customers with real-time feedback as to what’s working and what’s not… it’s invaluable.”
The company has found the physical location to be so valuable that it started launching pop-up locations nationwide to test new markets for opening a second store. The first pop-up in Los Angeles opened last week and two more locations in Houston and Kansas City will open later this holiday season.
These cities were specifically identified as markets that strongly identify with the FEED brand already. The success of the pop-ups will directly impact the company’s decision as to where they will open their second permanent location.
The physical expansion is also a sign that impact-driven companies are continuing to succeed in a retail landscape where customer’s expect companies to be both functional and political. As Bush Lauren puts it: “It’s good business to do good.”
This article originally appeared on Forbes