Ellesmere Port entrepreneur gears up to compete in the UK and Ireland's biggest town regeneration challenge


Winner will be crowned ‘UK and Ireland’s Towns Entrepreneur of the Year’ and win £10,000 in business start-up funding

An Ellesmere Port based entrepreneur is just weeks away from competing in the UK and Ireland’s biggest town regeneration challenge, TestTown. Delivered in partnership with Plus Dane Housing, the Pop-Up Business School and made-here, ‘Pop Up in the Port’ saw Whitby Road turned into a hot bed for budding entrepreneurs and new businesses and gave local people the chance to test their ideas in a safe, low risk environment.

Melissa Ridley was nominated for the national final as she impressed judges with her creative gift business concept, The Olive Mill. Melissa is one of 12 new start-ups from across the UK and Ireland who will compete.

“I’m so excited that our budding entrepreneur  Melissa has been shortlisted in this major regeneration competition. We met Melissa at our Pop up in the Port event last year, where she was able to test her idea for her business venture and benefited from lots of support and advice to help her on her way.  She has done fantastic to reach the final stage – it’s a big good luck from us at Plus Dane Housing, really hope she wins.”

The competition will be held in Glasgow Saltmarket with Melissa in with a chance of winning up to £10,000 of funding to help grow her business.

Now in its third year, TestTown, run by the Carnegie UK Trust, has become the UK and Ireland’s biggest accelerator programme for young entrepreneurs with fresh ideas for helping to rejuvenate the country’s town centres. 

The competition will take place later this month in Glasgow’s historic Saltmarket area from 22nd - 28th February. The finalists will trade from a series of pop-up shops from Thursday 25th February with time ahead of this being used to set-up their stores. A number of well-known Scottish business leaders will judge the finalists based on their business concept, future plans and understanding of their chosen industry, with the winner being crowned on Sunday 28th.

Melissa Ridley, Test Town Finalist said ‘I’m so excited to be part of this competition, I can’t wait to meet the wonderful people of Glasgow, learn from successful entrepreneurs and start trading! These are exciting times for the Olive Mill

Jim Metcalfe, TestTown Programme Leader at the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “There are just a few weeks to go until Melissa competes in the final of TestTown and we wish her the very best of luck.  She has done brilliantly to make it to this final stage!

“The TestTown competition is like no other in that it provides a platform for young entrepreneurs to test their business ideas and to receive real-time feedback from members of the public. Since TestTown started back in 2013, we have helped to support over 100 young entrepreneurs and of the 39 new businesses we have worked with, 29 have continued to trade.

“The location of the final is an area in Glasgow which is undergoing lots of redevelopment and one which will offer competitively priced trading opportunities for start-ups. We are hoping that the competition drives people from near and far to take a look at the Saltmarket and The Briggait and we encourage you to get involved if you are visiting Glasgow whilst the competition takes place!”

During their time in Glasgow, the finalists will also take part in a public engagement project to help the partners of the regeneration challenge, Glasgow City Council and City Property (Glasgow) LLP. This will involve them capturing information from local stakeholders, such as retailers, commuters, elected members and residents about their views of the Saltmarket and where improvements could be made.

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, Enniscorthy in Ireland, Falkirk and Perth in Scotland and Bridgend in Wales.

The judges of TestTown are: Brian McEwan from Young Enterprise Scotland, Nick Allan from Nick Allan and Associates Ltd, Sandy Greaves of Greaves Sports, Sarah Tashnizi of MY BABABOO Ltd and Jim Metcalfe from the Carnegie UK Trust.

More on TestTown can be found here: www.testtown.org.uk. Follow the progress on Twitter and join in the town centre debate @TestTown2016.