Imagination & Innovation
Joe Barret The Teenage MarketLast week I was invited to attend the ‘Test Towns’ competition in Huddersfield, an initiative which rewards the imagination and innovation of young entrepreneurs.

As the co-founder of The Teenage Market, I was asked to come along and judge the standard of products put on display by the young creative traders, who were showcasing their businesses in popup shops.

While making my way to Queensgate Market, I was really hoping that the standard would be very high, as Huddersfield are part of our national network of towns running Teenage Markets. I have to say I was immediately blown away by the standard of products and the professionalism of each and every young trader who took part.

Walking around, it was very clear that all the young traders had put a lot of thought into how their stall would be viewed by potential customers. However, there were a few who really stood out to me.

AdrianaAdriana, a 22 year-old designer, showcased her set of beautifully handcrafted rugs and footstools. Her bespoke line of homeware impressed all of the judges, and I was particularly interested in how she planned to take her locally-made bespoke products to a global market.

The Teenage Market image 2The sheer ingenuity of James, a 26 year-old maker, also impressed me. His business ‘Sesh’ takes broken skateboards and transforms them into an array of individually handcrafted designs. As James told me, “each design is created with the same passion and energy that each original skateboard was created and destroyed with.”
This same passion and energy could be seen within young entrepreneur Stephen who, at 24, has created Panda’s Kitchen, a line of unique hand crafted liqueurs and cocktails that aim to “thrill you, chill you and fulfill you!”. His unusual flavours include Mandarin Tea, Salted Caramel and Krispy Kreme doughnuts but are for over 18s only!

What is even more amazing, is that Stephen has only been trading for six months after starting out on the Alternative Market in Huddersfield, a regular event which features The Teenage Market. Since trading at the markets, Stephen has expanded his business into a shop at a local arcade which has green walls that are as vibrant as his personality! Since setting up, there have been 25 Alternative Markets run in Huddersfield with 133 young traders supported.

My trip was made even more striking due to the results from the latest UK retail markets industry survey being published. Figures show that over 70% of market traders are now aged over 50, which highlights the growing need to recruit and support the next generation of market traders now more than ever.

What is clear from the success of The Teenage Market is that there are hundreds of imaginative and innovative young traders in all of our towns, but they need to be given an accessible and affordable platform in order to really engage and connect with their town’s local market.