Britain’s Biggest Town Regeneration Challenge Launches To Help Create New Wave Of Entrepreneurs

July 6, 2015

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AaronTestTown 2015 will see 10 towns host an enterprise challenge in town centre spaces between July and November, with each town challenge tailored to local economic needs. Finalists from each town will then come together to compete in a national final with the winning business awarded the title of ‘UK Towns Entrepreneur of the Year’ and a £10K Investment.

TestTown has become the UK and Ireland’s biggest accelerator programme for young entrepreneurs with fresh ideas for rejuvenating the country’s town centres.  In the last two years, TestTown has helped inject £200k into start-ups, supported 150 entrepreneurs and helped get 45 new local businesses off the ground.

With official unemployment figures from the UK Government showing that the number of young people is still proportionately much higher than for older generations, TestTown has been a way to encourage young people to demonstrate the validity of their ideas.

Jim Metcalfe, TestTown Programme Leader at the Carnegie UK Trust, said:

“Conditions are still tough for town economies across the country, and youth unemployment is becoming a systemic challenge. TestTown is all about helping people to harness entrepreneurial flare at the local level. It also provides an opportunity to connect town centre entrepreneurs with the challenges facing the high street, making them real partners and contributors to improving local communities.

“Testing out imaginative business ideas on the high street is our TestTown focus, just like in previous years. But our experience has shown that each town has a different set of circumstances and that there is an opportunity for these to be addressed through empowering local enterprise. That’s why this year we’re giving local towns control over the activities they run to help them generate the best possible long-term results for their area.”

Some of the activities that will be held as part of the challenge include a pop-up youth enterprise market in Bridgend, Wales, green enterprise training and mentoring in Walthamstow and a master crafts training session for unemployed 18-30 year olds in Enniscorthy, Ireland. Business training and coaching workshops for young musicians, performers and artists in Great Yarmouth will provide them with the knowledge to turn their talents into business opportunities.

The full list of host towns involved in the TestTown challenge include: Walthamstow, Ellesmere Port, Great Yarmouth, Huddersfield and Heanor in England, Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, Falkirk and Perth in Scotland,  Bridgend in Wales and Enniscorthy in Ireland, which will be the first time that TestTown will have had a presence in the Republic of Ireland.

Jim Metcalfe, continued:

“When you’re at the start of your entrepreneurial journey, things can seem very daunting. This is equally true if you’re looking to take a business in a new direction. TestTown provides a stepping stone to trial new ideas but with a support system behind you.

“We are looking forward to monitoring the results of this year’s programme and hope that as well as helping local town centres think about innovative ways to boost local trading, we can also encourage our entrepreneurs of tomorrow to make that bold step towards becoming their own boss.”

Ahead of the challenge getting underway in July, towns throughout the country applied to demonstrate how they could benefit from being involved in TestTown. Each town has received £3,000 to run their skills development activity.

More on TestTown and applying to take part in an event can be found at www.testtown.org.uk. Follow the progress on Twitter and join in the town centre debate @TestTown_2015.

Photograph: 2014 winner Aaron Darke of Zymurgorium (@Zymurgorium) by Richard Marsham