Hand Picked - 041 (800x533)A new Gateshead shop will provide entrepreneurial students with the chance to showcase their retail flair and grow their fledgling start-up businesses.

Gateshead College has secured £50,000 of funding from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to launch the handPICKED project, an independent outlet where students will be able to trial their retail ideas and ambitions before going to market on their own.

Opening for business at the Intu MetroCentre in November, handPICKED will be a first for a North East college, accommodating dozens of retail focused start-ups established by students – it’s anticipated that upwards of 100 young entrepreneurs from the college will be involved during the project’s 18 month trial.

In addition to retail experience, the shop will offer 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.

It’ll also provide them with a retail customer services experience that they’ll be able to take forward with them as they progress onto paid jobs with Intu and other retailers in the future.

Local traders and craft-makers from across the region, who make handmade gifts such as jewellery, handbags, stationary, soft furnishings, home ware and food to the public, will also be able to utilise the shop as an outlet for product sales.

handPICKED is a social enterprise with all profits going to the Gateshead College Foundation, which aims to ensure people from across the North East can access funds to enable them to develop their skills and improve their life chances.

The project is a further example of the college’s aim of supporting the creation of an entrepreneurial culture in the North East alongside its role as a GAZELLE college, committed to deploying entrepreneurship as a driver for change in the education sector.

handPICKED also builds on activity generated by the college’s 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. Twenty seven start-ups were created by Gateshead College students in 2013 alone.

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.”

Helen Atkinson, Intu’s marketing manager, added: “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 handPICKED and the employment of a dedicated retail manager, who will oversee commercial activity at the trading unit. The money came from RBS’s Inspiring Enterprise grant programme, which aims to encourage people to explore enterprise, build their entrepreneurial skills and launch a successful business and has seen £3 million of grants being distributed since October 2012.

Thom Kenrick, Head of Community Programmes, 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 on how you can work with Gateshead College to support young entrepreneurs, call 0191 426 4332.