An initiative launched by Gateshead College and Intu to encourage young entrepreneurs and local businesses is celebrating a fantastic first year in business.
In just 12 months, handPICKED, which is based at Intu Metrocentre in Gateshead, has achieved £250,000 of takings and around 180 people have benefitted from the scheme as either employees, traders or trainees.
Four businesses set up by college students have also been supported by the programme which provides retail and hands-on work experience as well as giving students the chance to develop wider skills that are important to business success, notably market research, product merchandising and customer service in a genuine retail environment.
Over the past year, the programme has supported entrepreneurs and local small businesses, delivered training and work opportunities for students and created 13 jobs. It currently supports 61 local traders and craft makers from across the North East.
Judith Doyle, principal at Gateshead College said: “The first year of handPICKED has certainly exceeded our expectations. Any profits is invested into the Gateshead College Foundation, which provides students with financial support to develop their employability skills and give them an edge when it comes to securing a job when they leave us.
“handPICKED is currently on target to be a financially sustainable business that can continue to operate in the long term whilst continuing to provide entrepreneurial and economic benefits. We look forward to a successful future and watching the growth of such a fantastic initiative.”
The initiative also builds on activity generated by the Gateshead College Northern Stars enterprise society, which gives students the opportunity to discuss their business ideas with established business mentors and sell their products to staff and students within the college.
The partnership developed between Gateshead College and Intu has so far provided students with a number of opportunities, including handPICKED and the Intu retail academy, a training scheme delivered by the college to encourage retail, hospitality and customer service careers within Intu Metrocentre and Eldon Square.
Gavin Prior, intu Metrocentre’s general manager said: “The partnership between Intu and Gateshead College has been incredibly successful. The college have developed training schemes and opportunities which not only match our business needs but the needs of our tenants.
“The college moulds candidates into work ready, professional individuals. The initiatives have improved the calibre of employees and we look forward to continuing the partnership and developing the future of entrepreneurship and retail together.”
Gateshead College secured £50,000 of funding from NatWest to launch handPICKED in 2014, which has been used towards running costs of and the employment of an expert retail manager to oversee operations. The money came from the bank’s Inspiring Youth Enterprise initiative, which aims to encourage young people to explore enterprise, build their entrepreneurial skills and launch a successful business.
Alan Gowling, Director of Business Banking at NatWest, said: “We were enthusiastic to support handPICKED as we believe in helping local small businesses thrive.
“handPICKED impressed us because of its many different positive aspects, such as stocking products from local traders, providing training and entrepreneurial opportunities, learning opportunities and creating jobs for young people and the unemployed.
“It has proven to be a successful business and development model and is a scheme which has our full support.”