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Sir Alan Sugar would be proud
Capricorn stallholders
Business start-ups... Ella Yearsley, Emma Humphreys and David Thomas help out on the Capricorn stall with charity worker Pauline Gregory, front.

By Nick Bourne
Shoppers looking for bargains at Mold's Wednesday market could be forgiven for thinking they'd stumbled into an episode of Sir Alan Sugar's The Apprentice

Unemployed people setting up in business have been putting their entrepreneurial skills into practice.

In an Apprentice-style TV challenge, three teams of people on the same Welsh Assembly Government-backed business start-up programme agreed to take on the task:

Go head-to-head and raise as much cash for three charities by setting up and running stalls for a day on Mold market - with no start-up capital, stock or equipment.

And by Wednesday morning, everything was in full swing.

Speaking from one of the stalls bustling with customers, WAG Enterprise Service's Jon Williams said the challenge had been dreamed up as a way to get people on business start-up courses to put their skills into use.

Jan Green
Being made redundant in May knocked my confidence.
Jan Green

He says since the recession began there has been a rise in people looking to set themselves up in business.

"More people have been engaging with the start-up service than we have seen over the last three or four years," said Jon, a senior enterprise manager based at St Asaph Enterpise Centre.

The market stalls - all brimming with produce the groups had been able to get from local businesses - were carrying the names of the charitable groups they were supporting; Help for Heroes, Age Concern, and local welfare charity, Capricorn Animal Rescue.

Jan Green from Connah's Quay, who's planning to set up her own hair dressing business after being made redundant as a salon manager in nearby Shotton, said focussing on the challenge had given her a morale boost.

"Being made redundant in May knocked my confidence. I went to Careers Wales in Shotton in the depths of despair and they got me on to a workshop."

The idea for the market stall project came from Mandy Jones from Wrexham's THE Group, one of the firms contracted by WAG to help unemployed people and business start-ups.

Gareth Coleman
There is so much help out there for people wanting to run their own business. You just have to ask.
Gareth Coleman

She acts as a mentor and runs sessions based at St Deiniol's Library, Hawarden, on Wednesdays. Other groups are held all over Wales, organised by WAG's Enterprise Service.

Helping to run the Capricorn stall was former marketing manager Ella Yearsley who moved from London to Caergwrle while making a career change. She's setting up her own reflexology business.

"There are jobs out there. I've been getting calls from agencies but you are finding more people going for the same jobs," she said.

Staffing the Help for Heroes stall on the corner of High Street, were university graduates Jack Freeman, 20, of Wrexham, and Gareth Coleman, 23, from nearby Rhosllanerchrugog.

Gareth advises people with ideas to set up in business to "go for it".

He has been helped to set up three companies; a removals and delivery firm, home audio installation business and another in sales and marketing.

"There is so much help out there for people wanting to run their own business," he said. You just have to ask."

There was no single winner at the end of a day's trading on Mold market, apart from the charities, and so The Apprentice's Sir Alan Sugar would, surely, have found little to criticise - let alone having an opportunity to utter his catchphrase, 'You're fired!"

For more information about support for new businesses, call WAG's Flexible Support for Business - 03000 6 03000




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