Two Teesside businesses run by young entrepreneurs have won places in the regional final of a national competition to find the next generation of superstar traders.
The Little Vegan Market and Betty and the Lovecats were chosen after impressing the judges at the Youth Market, held at Middlesbrough’s Dundas Market.
The Little Vegan Market – run by Charlotte Bottomley and Matthew Wilson – is already well-known to Dundas shoppers. Middlesbrough’s first vegan supermarket opened there just 12 months ago and has been so successful it has already moved to a bigger unit.
But for Beth Dixon – the creative force behind Betty and the Lovecats – the Youth Market was one of her first face-to-face encounters with customers.
“Prior to Dundas everything was mostly online,” said the 26-year-old graduate in Decorative Art, who lives in Billingham. “You don’t get to see the body language or how excited somebody is and what they actually think about the product.”
Beth makes all the ceramics she sells. Earlier this year she chose to focus full-time on her business and decided to make more practical products.
“A lot of them are now not simply decorative. I make things like storage boxes and planters,” she said. “If it was me shopping I would find it very difficult to buy something I just liked the look of. I’m putting a lot more effort into the function side, because in the North East many people don’t have the money.”
As well as competing in the regional final – which takes place in Newcastle in July – Beth has decided to return to Dundas at the end of this month to take part in its regular Food and Craft Market.
The Youth Market also featured the work of students from Middlesbrough College, which is looking to strengthen its relationship with Dundas Market. “It’s great for our students to know that there are opportunities to take what they’re doing here and present them to the public at Dundas,” said Rick Millington, Middlesbrough College’s curriculum team leader for Progression Studies.
This was the third Youth Market to be held at Dundas and in May three businesses were given a week’s free trading during the Love Your Local Market campaign.
Throughout the year start-up businesses are provided with discounted rents and short-term leases to help them through their vital early months.
“We think it’s very important to support new businesses on Teesside,” said Dundas Market manager David Harris. “The Little Vegan Market is doing so well already and we were impressed by all the young traders who took part in the Youth Market. Beth, in particular, caught our eye for the quality of the products, her understanding of her customers’ needs and – this should not be under-estimated – her appetite for hard work.”