Student Makers pitching in to revive Well Street Market

Student Makers pitching in to revive Well Street Market

Chloe James doesn’t look like your typical market trader. For one thing, she’s only 15-years-old. But go down to Hackney’s Well Street on the first Saturday of every month and you’ll find her holding her own among the regular stall holders, selling hot spiced apple juice, tropical mocktails and self-designed t-shirts and caps.

This is London’s first ever Teenage Market, where young people can sell their wares. Get through a short interview process and they are given a free stall, to show products and hone entrepreneurial skills.

The market was launched last December by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who said: “Markets are about people coming together to have a go at making a business and doing something that creates jobs, growth and prosperity.”

Four months later, the market is doing just that. It is a thriving home to 26 regular traders. But the 10 additional stalls that make up its Teenage Market and Student Makers section are a vital part of this mission to provide opportunities for the local community.

Chloe is one of 10 teen traders, aged between 14 and 17, who have come to the market with Hackney Quest, a charity that provides opportunities and activities for local young people.

Through the charity, the teens learned about branding, customer service and marketing. Then they started testing these new skills on their own market stall. Now, they are busy developing their products, supported all the while by a team of volunteers whose job it is to build their confidence and skills. Some teens, such as Nathaniel Mills-Jones, have already demonstrated great determination and skill however.

By 2008, Well Street Market had dwindled to nothing and the area was described as one of the most deprived in the UK. So, in 2011, the Well Street Traders’ and Residents’ Association (WESTRA) was launched to bring the market and surrounding shopping streets back to life.

In order to do so, however, WESTRA had to crowdfund a daunting £79,000, and secure another £20,000 from the Mayor of London. Nathaniel, then aged just 15, made a trip to City Hall where he spoke eloquently about the positive impact that being part of the Teenage Market could have on his life and that of his peers. This helped secure further funding enabled WESTRA to reach its crowdfunding target.

Today, Hackney Quest’s teen traders are proving him right. They have created their own brand of organic apple juice ‘Deep Within’ and every time they come to the market, it sells out. But they are not the only ones making a success of market days. Seven student makers are also doing a brisk trade.

Letitia Clark, 29, explains: “I sell quirky illustrated gift cards. My day job is as a chef in a nearby restaurant, but the student maker’s market is amazing for me as it allows me free promotion, an opportunity to showcase my own creations, and to meet people and shopkeepers who might be interested in stocking my goods.”

Like the Teenage Market programme, the Student Makers scheme is unique. No other London market supports local artists, designers and makers by offering free stalls and ‘street-based business training’. This training means that young people get mentoring and help on the day. There are also workshops on product development, marketing, how to sell and selling online.

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