After an extremely tough year for the City of Aberdeen, it has been so refreshing to see our local businesses adapt to a ‘new normal’ with a level of motivation and creativity that is truly inspiring. An exceptional example of this is the work of the STAXX team, made up of passionate and experienced individuals who have come together to provide a glimmer of hope for small businesses owners who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We caught up with Dave, one of the bright sparks behind STAXX, to learn more about the concept, the positive impact it’ll have on the city and how the public reacted to the recent announcement.
What’s the concept?
“STAXX will be a new social and creative market - a community hub. It’ll serve as a springboard for young local businesses, where they will benefit from affordable rent, business support schemes and a secure city centre location to trade from, allowing them to flourish and build capital to reinvest into a bricks and mortar place of their own within 3-5 years.
“It won’t solely be food or drinks led, there will be a range of retail, arts and entertainment space too. We plan on operating a rooftop bar on the top floor, creating the perfect space to socialise whilst overlooking the harbour lights. We will likely retain ownership of the bar operation as the revenue from this will ensure that we can further reduce the rental rates for the units below. Our first floor will most likely house all of our street food traders, creating a vibrant and diverse street food community. The ground floor will provide space for anything else from fashion boutiques, coffee shops, music studios, craft retailers and much more.
“We have taken a lot of inspiration from other similar markets across the globe which can be easily built, added to or even moved if that ever became necessary in a number of years.
“With Shiprow obviously looking over the harbour, we’ve had some good feedback from the council that it'll be aesthetically fitting with the shipping containers making up the majority of the build and that the project fits in with their wider vision for the city masterplan.
“We will be providing the repurposed containers and seating areas, businesses will just need to bring whatever equipment they need to make their products or provide their service. They will also have the freedom to decorate their units and really brand them up, which we think will look really cool.
“For us, it’s not about tying businesses into long-term lease agreements, instead we want to provide support in their formative years, which is often critical to their survival. We are aiming to operate a 3-5 year rotation model with the local businesses we house, with some in their early days to others who are more established and looking to offer a smaller scale pop-up style outlet. We also hope to incorporate some ultra-short-term lease units which will ensure an ever changing experience for STAXX visitors.”
Where did the idea come from?
“Having launched and operated my avocado based cafe concept AVO (@avoabz) in the former Aberdeen Market, I saw potential for the space to be regenerated and used to house local start-ups due to the affordable rent and short term lease agreements available. There were already many successful established businesses in there such as The Sushi Box and Madame Mews, as well as many more that had started life in and outgrown the market, such as Cupcakes by Jo, Yarakobi by CJ etc. Over the last year and half, before its closure due to the pandemic and subsequent fall into administration, I felt there was enough local support to push forward and create a new-age market with a more refined vision and renewed energy.
“In the old Aberdeen Market, although we were given great scope and allowed to put our own creative stamp on our units, there were just so many constraints due to it being badly underinvested in. The building was no longer fit for purpose and the long-term vision of how it could best serve the community seemed totally lost over the years. We want to offer a modern market, a buzzing social space and creative home where new businesses can be born and flourish alongside a passionate community helping and supporting them along the way.”
I met co-founder Michael Robertson and his fellow RGU Quantity Surveying graduate Dubatey Teye after they had spent a year working on a construction project in London. They both shared exactly the same vision for Aberdeen Market after visiting concepts down south such as Pop Brixton, Boxpark etc and seeing first-hand the benefits that they provided their local communities."
How will this benefit local businesses in Aberdeen?
“Offering vendors affordable rent will be at the core of STAXX, as without this we will just be continuing the circle of suffocating local businesses and suppressing their growth. Obviously ensuring it is as cost effective for vendors as possible will depend on us being savvy in terms of raising funds and generating regular revenue as a development.
“Although we are nowhere near releasing pricing details for units, we have already gathered some feedback from local businesses to lay some foundations to work off. Before any decisions are made we will be inviting all potential traders who have registered an interest in becoming a vendor on our website to consultations, where we will gather invaluable market research into their expectations for the complex. After this, the finer details will be released with more assurance that they take all potential traders feedback into consideration.
“We are also in the early days of researching how we can go the extra mile for local businesses. Primarily we are looking into different ways of helping new-start businesses secure grants and funding through STAXX, as this can be really difficult and is crucial to getting a lot of businesses off the ground. We’d love to offer a service by which we can provide support and advice on business plans, possibly utilising the help of organisations such as Elevator, Business Gateway or RGU. This could prove to be a really helpful service for anyone looking to launch a new business by having business plan support, access to funding and an affordable location to trade from all provided through our STAXX community.”
“There has also been some talk around crowdfunding schemes, donations and subscription models. But like I say, it is still very early and we are still gathering information before we make any decisions.”
When do you plan on opening?
“Roughly mid to late 2021 - things are moving quickly at the moment and we have had a lot of positive chats with the council, people who have come forward who can source shipping containers and architects hoping to help get the project off the ground too. Lots of these are local companies who want to see STAXX come to fruition as they believe it will be really beneficial for the city, which we really appreciate.”
Have you had much interest from local businesses?
“Yes definitely, it’s been crazy - I think we are nearly at 200 applications already. There has been interest from businesses who we initially thought would be a good fit coming forward, which is great to see, and also businesses we had never even imagined or heard of. Everything from arts, crafts, food, drink, music, workshops, fabricators - stuff we never expected but would work so well in STAXX.
“We have new requests everyday so this is just even more pulling power with the council and investors who have already been impressed by the interest coming our way. We just want to keep that momentum going so urge anyone with an established business or new business idea to register their interest on our website so we can keep them up to date.”
How will this differ from the old Aberdeen Market?
“Firstly, we are really determined to have a more refined offering of independent businesses and create a real community hub, which will make the city a more exciting prospect to visit. Whereas at the former market, the passion seemed to have gone from the top and they really struggled to reinvent themselves with the constraints of underinvestment.
“Another main difference and selling point of STAXX will be it’s focus on sustainability, which we are all very passionate about. We will be aiming to be as eco-friendly and zero waste as possible with the addition of living walls, clean energy sources and recycled shipping containers to name just a few of our initiatives.
“Choosing vendors who are inline with our sustainability schemes and who uphold the same responsibilities as us will also be key. When applying, businesses will need to show us they have a high level of interest or emphasis in being sustainable.”
What has been the most exciting part so far?
“Seeing the public's reaction to it all when we did the media release was crazy as it was unanimously positive.
“Also knowing that all of the effort put into regenerating the old market during my time there with AVO hasn’t gone to waste - everyone in the city seems behind the STAXX concept which is a great feeling. We are so excited to be delivering something for the city that truly drives local economic growth and won’t just be made up of bland, stagnant chains.”
Discover more about STAXX here: https://staxxabz.com/
Follow them on Instagram and Facebook: @staxx.abz