Young entrepreneurs set out plans to save high street

Taking over derelict shops

Updated: 
High street takeover

Young people have set up shop in vacant high street units as part of a bid to demonstrate how town centres could be rejuvenated.

Organised by philanthropic organisation, The Carnegie UK Trust, the Boarded Up Britain campaign aims to highlight how high business rates, legal fees and planning constraints are preventing young entrepreneurs from opening their own shops, despite many towns experiencing decline.

This has included the TestTown initiative which has seen young people running business in vacant high street units around the UK.

Now eight winners of regional heats have set up business in Cambridge for the weekend.

Whichever has the highest takings will win start-up funding and mentoring for their new company.

High street takeover
Hollie Scott, who runs Violet Lilly Vintage Clothing, a finalist from the TestTown initiative

Helping high streets thrive

High streets minister Penny Mordaunt said: "There is a real sense of momentum behind our high streets and I'm determined that the hard work of people who have strived to make their high streets great places to work, shop and live is not only recognised but shared with others so they too can learn valuable tips for success.

"This competition is a wonderful way of supporting young people who have the get-up and go that is needed to help our high streets thrive."

Businesses taking part range from vintage clothing stores to luxury food outlets.

Jim Metcalfe, TestTown UK programme leader, said: "The British high street is still in dire straits despite economic recovery.

"There are too many barriers preventing young people from rejuvenating the retail offer available in our towns and cities.

"It is time to prescribe a new course of treatment and that is exactly what TestTown aims to do. We have gone straight to the next generation of shoppers and asked them what would encourage them into the high street."

High street takeover
Edward Shorney of GoRookie, a finalist from the TestTown initiative

An opportunity

He added that after travelling across the country to find young entrepreneurs, the group had found many talented business people.

"It is a crying shame that many of them may never have seen a high street had it not been for the support TestTown has provided," Mr Metcalfe said.

"There must be a simpler way to enable young people with good ideas to use vacant high street units."

Those taking part in the final, hosted by Cambridge Business Improvement District, are:
  • Herbal remedies business The Little Herbalista, run by Aine McGuckian, 24, from Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
  • Violet Lilly Vintage Clothing run by Hollie Scott from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
  • The Bubble CreativiTea: A Bubble Tea cafe run by Haroon Ali and James Canmer, from Kingston, south west London.
  • Online apprenticeship matching service GoRookie run by Edward Shorney, 19, from South Wales.
  • Locally sourced drinks company Zymurgorium run by Aaron Darke, 23, from Manchester.
  • Tiger Print Tees - a jungle themed coffee shops where children can design their own t-shirts and accessories - run by Colleen Reid, 25, from Kirkintilloch, Scotland
  • Bespoke fashion store Major London 5 from by sisters Nav, 24, and Gurpreet Bains, 23, from London.
  • Gourmet marshmallow business Marsh A La Mode run by Aine Dempsey, 29, from Chelsea, London.
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