Young people are being encouraged to start their own business by bringing their products to a local market.
First Pitch, which started last year, was set up by the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF) to give budding entrepreneurs the chance to test their business ideas by setting up a market stall.
With a recent report showing that Britain saw the fastest rise in youth unemployment in the developed world after Greece and Spain in the three years since the credit crunch, and with nearly one million 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK unemployed, the federation hopes the initiative will inspire youth enterprise.
Joe Harrison, head of the NMTF, which represents 30,000 market traders, says: ‘Lots of well-known businesses began life on market stalls – Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Superdry to name but a few.
‘Buying and selling is a key part of entrepreneurship, yet we are concerned valuable skills and knowledge are not being passed down as fewer young people think of setting up a market stall.’
Some 1,400 markets will offer space on stalls. Candidates must submit their business idea for goods or services they could sell.
Successful applicants will be given up to five days of free trading in a local market during Love Your Local Market fortnight in May. A judge from the NMTF will assess them on sales, customer feedback and presentation skills.
They will also be given advice about the viability of their idea.
A shortlist of up to 100 will then be given the chance to trade on the stall for a further 12 months. To get them started they will benefit from reduced rent, starting at 50 per cent and rising to the full 100 per cent by the end of the year. After this time one trader will be named overall winner and receive a £2,000 cash prize.
Kathereen Paterson won last year’s First Pitch scheme. The 35-year-old, originally from Chile, set up Dulce Kitchen, baking South American cakes and pastries, after being given a stall at Tachbrook Street Market in Pimlico, Central London. She has since moved Chesham, Buckinghamshire, as she needed a bigger kitchen to make pastries, as her stall became ever more popular.
She says: ‘I always wanted my own business and searched to find a stall, but markets would say, ”we have cakes, we don’t need another cake stall”, not understanding that I was offering something different.
‘First Pitch has made my dream come true. It enabled me to start my business with very little risk and without having to raise a lot of capital. By trading on a stall I have a direct line to customers and can test my product range and get invaluable feedback.’
Mark Prisk, the Minister with responsibility for local growth, has backed the initiative. ‘Markets are an excellent way for new businesses to make a start and can play a vital role in revitalising the high street and community,’ he says. ‘This scheme offers young entrepreneurs the experience only face-to-face trading can provide.’
The scheme has been boosted by a £50,000 grant from RBS Group’s Inspiring Youth Enterprise programme, which will be used to help market the scheme to 18 to 30-year-olds and provide mentoring services for the shortlisted businesses. The closing date is March 15.