A silversmith, fashion designers and a maker of ‘hibiscus cola’ will be among the young entrepreneurs to test out their retail schemes for real on Wythenshawe high street this week.
Five new businesses run by people aged 16 – 30 are competing for the TestTown Wythenshawe champion’s crown – and the right to enter the TestTown UK national final in the Autumn.
On Friday 8 August (10am – 5pm) and Saturday 9 August (9am – 4pm), shoppers will be able to visit the TestTown big marquee in the Birtles, Wythenshawe Civic Centre, as part of the UK’s biggest initiative to help young people bring their energy and ideas to the country’s high streets.
The five Wythenshawe finalists are: –
Zymurgorium: An alternative, community-focused meadery and brewery company from Wythenshawe – inspired by the ground-breaking Moss Cider project in Moss Side, Zymurgorium plan to offer a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic organic drinks, raw materials for which are foraged in the local area. Their non-alcoholic range, including ‘hibiscus cola’, will be available at TestTown.
- Marie Jewellery: Bespoke jewellery maker and silversmith Rachel Wilson will be selling a new range of Manchester / industrial inspired pieces, including the beautiful Heart of Manchester pendant.
- Create? and Saija: Two clothing retailers, both expert in adapting and producing bespoke urban fashion for the younger market.
- Smoooth: A new, health-conscious team of street smoothie sellers, promising instant hits towards an affordable five-a-day.
The national winner will scoop £10,000 of start-up funding for their idea, while regional winners will secure £500 funding.
One of the finalists, Rachel Wilson, from Didsbury, trained as a silversmith before setting up Marie Jewellery – her new bespoke design service for special events and one-off pieces.
“I entered TestTown because I saw it as a great opportunity to help me to launch my company. I’ve sold my designs at markets before, but this will be my first experience of retailing on a high street. TestTown came along at the perfect time and it would be amazing to go through to the national final”, says Rachel, 26.
“I have created a collection of special pieces which are inspired by Manchester. I love to walk around the city centre and find fine details in the architecture of buildings like the Town Hall and the Midland Hotel to inform my work”, adds Rachel, who says that her long-term ambition is to open her own studio in Manchester.
Wythenshawe Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We know that there are many young people in Manchester who have the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to become successful in business.
“The TestTown scheme offers five teams an invaluable chance to bring their ideas to Wythenshawe, get real experience of how the high street works in practice and develop their professional skills.
“I hope that local residents will come and support the finalists by visiting the TestTown marquee and taking a look at what these new businesses have to offer.”
Other measures the council have pursued to help create thriving district centres include offering business support and traders forums for local independent traders, holding monthly Manchester Youth Markets in the city centre and using the High Street Innovation Fund to help businesses and community groups fill unused space in local retail centres.
More than 400 people from across the country applied to take part in TestTown 2014.
Open to all 16 – 30 year olds, the event is delivered by the Carnegie UK Trust and offers young people the opportunity to bring a new business idea to life, while simultaneously revitalising the UK’s town centres.
The winner of the regional final in Wythenshawe will progress to the national final, which is to be held in historic Cambridge.
Other regional finals for TestTown will be held from June to August in Middlesbrough, Rhyl, Kirkintilloch, Bury St Edmunds, Perth and Coleraine.
Jim Metcalfe, TestTown Programme Leader at the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “We are looking forward to a great event in Wythenshawe. Last year’s final attracted over £10,000 in increased revenues for the host town and consumer footfall was doubled. We see no reason why that couldn’t be repeated in Wythenshawe.
“The standard of entries was exceptionally high and it shows that not only is entrepreneurial spirit still in strong supply, but also that young people see a future for our town centres. What we need to do is to back them and make it easier for them to make their businesses a reality, which is exactly what TestTown is all about.”
Ian Cowie, Chairman of SME Banking for NatWest & RBS and supporter of the TestTown programme, said: “We are delighted to support Carnegie UK Trust’s TestTown project as it is rolled out in our high streets up and down the country. We have seen some excellent business ideas created by young entrepreneurs which will enhance our town centres. I wish all the competitors every success with their new businesses and look forward to seeing their ideas in action.”
Follow the progress on Twitter and join in the town centre debate @TestTown2014.