Budding entrepreneurs urged to follow in footsteps of M&S

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IT’S probably best known as the birthplace of Marks & Spencer, and soon Kirkgate Market will be welcoming a new generation of entrepreneurs with big dreams.

As every student of retail history knows, M&S was established as a penny bazaar inside the iconic Leeds market in the late 19th century. A new scheme is being launched which will encourage small businesses who want to emulate M&S’s success.

First Pitch, which is backed by Leeds City Council, has been established after Kirkgate Market and the National Market Traders Federation joined forces to encourage aspiring businessmen and women to set up their own market stall.

Richard Lewis, executive board member for the development and economy at Leeds City council, said: “The open market is an important place for new business start-ups and offers people the chance to try out trading, to see if it works for them.”

Successful applicants for the scheme will be given up to five free days of market trading as part of the ‘Love Your Local Market’ campaign, from May 15 to 29.

There are 20 stalls available at Kirkgate Market, five in Pudsey and two in Otley.

During the free trial, a panel of national judges will assess the traders’ performance, before a shortlist is drawn up of 100 applicants from across the UK. Those who make the final selection will be able to continue trading and developing their business for a further year at a discounted rent rate of 50 per cent, which will gradually increase to 100 per cent by the end of the year.

A market master class and award ceremony will be held at the end of the year, when one trader will be rewarded with £2,000 for their business. The scheme has been praised by Neville Martin, the regional development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses.

He said: “It sounds like a cracking scheme that is going to help start-up businesses.”