TestTown Carrickfergus is welcomed by Mid and East Antrim Borough Mayor

Friday 28 August 2015

​The final preparations are taking place for an innovative business ideas’ project to get underway. The TestTown Carrickfergus pop-up shop at 2 Joymount between 27th - 31st August will provide a unique trading space and grant to help teams develop their ideas and help breathe new life back into town centres at the same time.

The final planning meeting with participants recently took place and Mid and East Antrim Borough Mayor, Councillor Billy Ashe, very kindly visited with the participants to provide some words of encouragement and lend his personal support to the initiative.

Cllr. Ashe related some of his own past entrepreneurial experience and acknowledged the commitment and hard-work that is required to establish a business and congratulated the participants on their efforts: "Having been self-employed and successfully operated several businesses myself, I am very aware of the hard-work required and the occasional uncertainties that sometimes need to be tolerated."

The Mayor, pictured here with Danielle Gault (Manna Cards), Vicki Foster (VF designs), Lisa Davis (AM Weddings and Events), Ruth Wilson (Bags and Bunting), Sharon Millar (Orabel Art), Kat Atkinson (The Shabbydashery), and standing is Gail Kelly (Mid and East Antrim Economic Development Officer), added: "I commend you all on the vision and dedication you are showing in 'going it alone' but I very much hope that your experience through the TestTown Carrickfergus initiative and through the relationships you strike up together demonstrates that you are actually not alone - there is support and goodwill out there and that others are also walking the same journey."

The range of products on offer have a distinct high-quality, hand-crafted arts and crafts feel to them and shoppers will have an opportunity to see some of the artisans at work, creating products that will then be available for sale over the coming days. The participants will be working hard to fit out the premises and bring their creativity and retail flair to bear to ensure that the customer experience is both welcoming and tempting.

The pop-up shop will be offering everything from one-off pieces of art from Orabel Art and VF designs, to homeware and occasion decor from Bags and Bunting and The Shabbydashery, to contemporary Christian cards from Manna Cards, and wedding and event theming and entertainment ideas from AM Weddings and Events.

The participants are also planning on bringing entertainment and animation to create a lively atmosphere in and around the pop-up shop premises and there will also be small giveaways available to shoppers.

Both Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Carnegie Trust (UK) are therefore calling on everyone in the Carrickfergus area to try to support these entrepreneurs in their efforts right throughout the Bank Holiday weekend and, in return, participants have agreed to offer a 10% discount to everyone who brings along an event flyer which are available now right across the town centre.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council made a successful application to Carnegie Trust UK that will now see Carrickfergus play host as one of their 10 UK locations for the nationwide TestTown initiative. Whilst the programme is wholly funded by Carnegie Trust (UK), the schemes at a local level are facilitated by the applicant and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has provided staff resource and expertise to support the scheme and its participants.

TestTown has been in development for over two years. A pilot event ran in 2013, which created a number of successful businesses and shaped the lives of those who took part. Sales of over £10,000 were taken and footfall in the trading streets doubled.

In 2014, 1,000 people applied to take part in TestTown, 105 young entrepreneurs were selected for spots at test weeks held in eight towns across the UK and of the 39 new businesses the Trust worked with, 29 have continued to trade.