PopUp Painting. Resilient in the face of COVID-19

Proof that no challenge is too great for dogged entrepreneurs, events-business PopUp Painting runs profitable events despite COVID.

Capital at Risk. See full risk warning.


It’s easy to assume that in a year of fluctuating lockdowns and restrictions that events businesses are doomed. While it’s true that some giants, like Informa who reported massive losses, have suffered, the doom and death of events companies are not a universal truism.

Meet the exception: PopUp Painting. This ‘sip and paint’ company brings art out of the classroom and into the places people meet every day.

This plucky company responded rapidly to restrictions and despite industry woes have found their feet in the new normal.

Profitable events in the ‘new normal’

PopUp Painting is continuing to host in-person events and are operating safely and securely under current Tier 1 & Tier 2 COVID-19 restrictions. What’s more, their events remain both popular and profitable.

One of the few entertainments that can be enjoyed in these challenging circumstances, demand for PopUp Painting’s events remains high. With effective marketing and a loyal repeat customer base which includes both corporate clients and consumers, most events are at capacity.

Capacity is the business’ biggest bug bear and one of the reasons they are raising capital right now. “We cannot fully satisfy customer demand due to constrained access to partner venues, with many closed either temporarily or permanently, and COVID-Secure measures including social distancing have greatly reduced our capacity,” says Finance Director Iain Baker. “With our own venue we would be able to increase capacity to meet demand, while still operating in a COVID-secure way.”

Despite operating at about 25% capacity, the business boasts strong returns. Base pricing remains very strong driven by dynamic price surging which boosts income.  Operating costs are not significantly changed, with additional PPE costs being offset by other cost savings, and event profitability remains largely unchanged.

A long-term plan that capitalises on a changing consumer behaviour

Adding their own venue was already in cards prior to March, 2020. With their own space, PopUp Painting plans to capitalise on the shift in consumer behaviour towards experiential leisure.

Industry experts like Deloitte have concluded that “The future of the high street relies upon its ability to bring physical retail with experiential leisure. Consumers will continue to look for leisure venues that bring together ‘an experience package’ for all the senses. This includes striking design and décor, memorable activities, distinctive food and beverage offerings and outstanding service.”

With their own venue, PopUp Painting is planning to launch an arts-themed café-bar and experiential events space, offering fully immersive experiences and themed F&B offerings. Their destination, says Baker, will be in a prime location for their customer base and will be at the forefront of an evolving sector.

With finding the right space, timing might be everything. The distressed hospitality sector has impacted the associated commercial property market and there are opportunities for innovative leasehold terms with low rents, minimal/zero premium and generous break clauses. Compared to only a year ago, this will increase the profitability and reduce the risk exposure of having their own premises, at least in the short to medium term.

What’s unique about PopUp Painting?

Paint and sip has its origins in the US, where it grew slowly from the mid-2000s before exploding in 2012. So, as a concept, PopUp Painting is not unique. There are other companies out there offering similar services. What is unique about PopUp Painting is:

  • The breadth and depth of the team’s experience. With founding members having strong corporate backgrounds, they are starkly contrasted to their competitors who are often run by sole-practitioner artists
  • The operational model. The unique scale of the PopUp Painting has enabled them to devise new operating procedures in conjunction with local authorities and venue management, and then to effectively train their team to apply modified COVID-secure procedures.

But while they are currently operating at around 25% of previous levels, their competitors are barely operating or have completely suspended in-person events.  Competitors that are either single practitioners or based on a franchise-like or licence-like business model cannot adapt easily or quickly. This is yet another opportunity for the team at PopUp Painting who are seeking to capitalise now to capture market share.

So, while an events company in the time of COVID may not have been what you thought you were looking for in your next investment, PopUp Painting is worth a second look. If they can run profitable events with a 25% reduction in capacity, imagine what they can do when unleashed in the post-COVID world.

PopUp Painting is currently raising £175k at a valuation of £1.3m and is EIS eligible. Learn more about this investment opportunity here.

Capital at Risk. See full risk warning