Dragon’s Den style pitches leads to six new pop up shops in Derry & Strabane

After weeks of pitching and preparations, six talented local entrepreneurs havey unveiled the exciting range of brands which will be showcased in two prime retail locations in Derry and Strabane as part of a new business support programme led by Derry and Strabane Council.

The clothing and homeware start-ups have each won a sought-after place on the RE:IMAGINE Pop Up Shop initiative, giving them four months trading in a prime retail location along with a wider support package of mentoring, marketing and technical assistance.

From this week, five of the successful creatives will share a unit in Foyleside Shopping Centre, while one business will operate a standalone premises in Strabane’s Pagoda. The scheme is organised by Council, working in conjunction with The Fashion & Textile Design Centre (FTDC) in Derry and BID in Strabane.

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Those in Foyleside are: Elaine Duffy, Vintage Star – Mend & Make Do; Bridgene Graham, Coalesce Wearable Art; Catriona Hutton, KOTO Candle; Laura Miller, Oh Sew Design Co. and Shannon McCafferty, Connie Ann. Meanwhile Jenna Mitchell has set up shop in Strabane Pagoda with Scottie Paws.

Clockwise from top left: Bridgene Graham, Coalesce Wearable Art, Jenna Mitchell, Scottie Paws, Catriona Hutton, KOTO Candles,: Elaine Duffy, Vintage Star, Laura Miller, Oh Sew Design Co. and Shannon McCafferty, Connie Ann

The start-ups - who range from a tattoo-inspired fashion brand, to an eco-friendly candle maker - were selected after a Dragon’s Den-style pitching event in front of a panel of experts.

The initiative is part of the new Start Up Accelerator Programme being rolled out by the Council, Enterprise NW and Strabane Enterprise Agency, with £240,000 secured to assist individuals who have participated in the Go For It Programme, to develop business ideas and skills. The programme is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

Head of Business with Council, Kevin O’Connor, said the entrepreneurs would really add to the retail offering at their new locations. “The Pop Up Shop initiative offers a great platform for new entrepreneurs to engage with new customers, and the eclectic mix of products will also enhance the retail offering in Foyleside and Strabane town centre. It’s fantastic to see fresh business talent bringing quality products to the marketplace and offering an alternative to the mainstream brands. It’s a positive sign for the local economy that we have such creative and innovative new entrepreneurs now progressing their ideas after what has been a very challenging time for local business.”

Deirdre Williams of the FTDC said: “The costs associated with any new business can be prohibitive, so this wraparound package of support will make a major difference to all the successful candidates,” Deirdre says.

“Big retail giants have been on the decline for some time now,” she added. “The pandemic has given us the chance to rethink our shopping values - and a demand for locally made, ethical and sustainable product is on the rise. The brands that have been selected for the RE:IMAGINE Pop Up tick all those boxes and I’m excited to see how they will progress with the support from everyone involved.”

Emma McGill from the Strabane BID said: “It’s great to see new brands making it to the local high street and I really hope this will encourage other budding entrepreneurs to take the next step in their business journey. Support is there, and through the BID community, a strong network of other entrepreneurs ready to share their expertise and assist other businesses as they take their first steps. I want to wish all the businesses well over the coming months as they get their brands established.”

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The RE:IMAGINE pop ups opened from March 4th for four months on Level 3, Foyleside Shopping Centre (former Make Up Pro Store unit) and The Pagoda, Abercorn Square, Strabane. Find out how to the take next step on your journey too www.derrystrabane.com/Subsites/Start-Up-Accelerator