A social enterprise that has become a launchpad for entrepreneurs and provides work inspiration to hundreds of young people is celebrating its fifth year in business.
Gateshead College launched the handPICKED shop in 2014 to give enterprising students and other retail entrepreneurs the chance to sell their products to the public.
Based at intu Metrocentre’s Green Mall in Gateshead, handPICKED lets entrepreneurial students showcase their retail flair and grow their fledgling start-up businesses. In five years the shop has provided retail, customer service and marketing experience to 144 young people.
handPICKED also enables local traders and craft-makers to stock their handmade gifts and accessories – including many with a North East theme – and sell them to the public. In the five years the shop has been operating, there have been 1000’s of products sold by 100 different traders.
Gateshead College students with special educational needs and disabilities are gaining work experience at handPICKED too; 25 people have worked in the shop and have been able to boost their employability skills by developing in areas such as communication, problem-solving and team work.
Judith Doyle, Gateshead College’s Principal and CEO, said: “We established handPICKED to help us to fulfil our purpose as a college, which is to offer our learners opportunities that will make them stand out and give them the employment edge.
“It is fantastic to be marking the five year anniversary of our shop. In this time, we have worked with many individuals who have either been able to start or grow their business, begin their retail and customer service careers or develop the skills and experiences to help them succeed in the future.”
James Dixon from Bedlington is a freelance graphic designer who has stocked his range of greetings cards in handPICKED since 2018. His business, Lines Behind, is proving to be a huge success.
James said: “I started designing and printing cards in my spare time while working full-time as a graphic designer. When I approached handPICKED to stock my cards I got lots of advice and support from the store manager, Dawn, she helped me develop my product range and I really owe a lot to her.
“As a small business, it’s fantastic to be able to stock my designs in somewhere like the Metrocentre and to be stocked alongside lots of other North East products feels really special.”
Shadi Al Kasem, from Newcastle, is studying business admin at Gateshead College and is currently completing a work placement in handPICKED.
The 20-year-old said: “I’m really enjoying working in handPICKED and having this opportunity to learn about business admin in a real workplace. I have learned about the importance of providing excellent customer service and have developed my communications skills and team working.”
intu Metrocentre works closely with the college and the team at handPICKED and the partnership has also seen the development of a training academy. intu Retail Gold is run by the college to encourage people to train towards retail, hospitality and customer service careers within intu Metrocentre and Eldon Square in Newcastle.
The productive partnership between Gateshead College and intu has provided students with several opportunities, including handPICKED and intu Retail Gold, a training academy run by the college to encourage retail, hospitality and customer service careers within intu Metrocentre and Eldon Square in Newcastle.
The academy benefits intu by helping the company to develop the next generation of retail talent.
Gateshead College secured £50,000 from RBS Group’s Inspiring Enterprise fund to launch the project, which was extended following an initial successful 18-month trial.