The Story Behind the American Dream Project
The American Dream Project is an annual pop-up contest run by Hull Property Group, a retail real estate company, to encourage small business success across America by connecting entrepreneurs with brick-and-mortar spaces.
How It Started
Hull Property Group operates retail properties in small markets across the United States. Our portfolio consists of enclosed shopping malls and strip centers where we work with retailers, restaurants and businesses every day.
We began to see more big brands face financial troubles and close stores in small towns as they struggled to keep up with changing consumer demands and online competition. But, where national retailers were struggling, local businesses were thriving. Many started in their homes, built followings online, were well supported by the community and needed space to grow.
When One Door Closes Another Door Opens
In 2019, a large retailer filed for bankruptcy and vacated several beautiful spaces across our portfolio. Seeing the empty storefronts with fixtures intact, we thought of what an opportunity this would be for a new business. Having a storefront is one of the most effective ways to grow. However, concerns over build out and operating costs often prevents a business from taking that step - it seems too risky, but it doesn't have to be with the right space.
Being able to move into this storefront would provide the opportunity for a business to see the value of brick-and-mortar with little risk.
A Great Idea Popped Up
We created the American Dream Project, a contest for the opportunity to pop-open in one of the move-in ready spaces. Hull Property Group would select the business to pilot the store and cover the rent giving a business a low-risk opportunity to try it out! The response was overwhelming with hundreds of applicants.
Eight businesses popped open and half signed leases to stay in their space. We learned that many didn’t think they could afford to operate in a storefront previously home to a national brand. Understanding such concerns, we had open conversations about expenses and sales, and worked to create unique agreements that allowed success and growth for the business and the property.
The Future of Brick-and-Mortar
Since our initial contest, we’ve grown the American Dream Project to include education, resources and a community that goes well beyond just a pop-up contest. We’re continually inspired by the people behind the business. The entrepreneur, the maker, the small business owner building their brand – whether it’s their first business or fifth. Their creativity, drive and entrepreneurial spirit defines the American dream.