More than 100 young North East entrepreneurs are set to be benefit from a new initiative that will allow them to trial their retail ideas before going to market on their own.
Thanks to £50,000 of funding from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Gateshead College has set up a shop at Intu MetroCentre, which, for the course of an 18-month trial, will be shared among dozens of retail-focused start-ups established by students.
Launching this month, the handPICKED project will be a first for a North East college.
In addition to providing retail experience, the shop give students the chance to develop wider business skills in areas like market research, product merchandising and customer service.
Traders and craft-makers from across the region will also be able to use it as an outlet for sales.
Judith Doyle, principal and chief executive at Gateshead College, said: “This is great example of the innovative investments we are making in our students to enhance their learning and bridge the skills gap.
“We are equipping them with the entrepreneurial knowledge and training that will stand them in good stead for a successful career, providing that all important edge that employers look for in an employee.
“It is part of our wider aim of ensuring that our students are the most highly prized in the jobs market.”
handPICKED is a social enterprise, with all profits going to the Gateshead College Foundation, which helps people access funds to develop their skills and improve their lives.
It builds on activity generated by the college’s Northern Stars enterprise society, which allows students to discuss business ideas with established mentors, and to sell their products in the college.
Through the initiative, 27 start-ups were created by students in 2013 alone.
Intu marketing manager Helen Atkinson said: “We are committed to supporting up-and-coming and new young entrepreneurs with the vision, products and ambition to succeed in the highly competitive world of retail.
“We also aim to provide our customers with an exciting and diverse mix of high street chains alongside independent and boutique stores at the MetroCentre.
“I’m sure that the originality and character of handPICKED will certainly appeal to shoppers looking for something different and unique.”
The RBS funding will pay for the running costs of the project and the employment of a dedicated retail manager, who will oversee commercial activity at the trading unit.
The money came from the bank’s Inspiring Enterprise grant programme, which aims to encourage people to explore enterprise, build their entrepreneurial skills and launch successful businesses. It has seen £3m of grants distributed since October 2012.
Thom Kenrick, head of community programmes at RBS, said: “RBS is committed to unlocking, supporting and nurturing entrepreneurial talent. We are delighted to support Gateshead College’s handPICKED shop.
“Giving these students the opportunity to showcase their products in such a prime location is brilliant.”
For further information, call 0191 426 433.