As an artist, Petra Geiger is accustomed to making things by hand. She used to sell her self-designed handbags at local festivals and knows what it's like to be an emerging artist struggling to find affordable retail space. In October 2004, Geiger put her hands to work once again and introduced the city of Atlanta to her latest creation: Beehive Co-op. The retail space is home to 46 designers who rent out whatever meets their needs--a shelf, a table or a boutique. The designers individually sell their creations, ranging from paper to jewelery to cupcakes. Together, they provide a refreshing alternative to big-box stores with mass-produced goods. "The whole country is starting to look the same--the same stores, the same merchandise," says Geiger, 39. "So this really feels good. People are craving it."
The concept has taken off, winning public acclaim and bringing in sales of $180,000 last year with expected growth of 20 percent to 30 percent for 2007. Geiger started franchising in January and hopes to open two or three locations per year. She's looking for franchisees who can manage the co-op space, market the concept and connect with their communities and local designers. Says Geiger, "We're looking [for] a team of owners who really want to work and grow together."