A Birmingham university has turned shopkeeper in a bid to boost business in the city.
Birmingham City University has set up shop inside the Mailbox complex to help young entrepreneurs take their first steps in to retail.
The Birmingham Made Me store showcases goods and designs made by current students and graduates, from art and textiles through to vintage goods and homeware.
The store, which is open until December, is part of the Birmingham Made Me campaign, celebrates design excellence in the city.
The campaign will culminate in a week-long design EXPO at the Mailbox next month.
The project is being backed by Beverley Nielsen, former West Midlands regional director for the CBI who has worked as director of employer engagement at Birmingham City University for the past three years.
She said: “We are facing tough economic challenges but our enterprising students, graduates and project partners see this as an opportunity to launch their own shop. The store is about trying to encourage young entrepreneurs by giving them an opportunity to showcase their goods and their designs and products.
“What we have tried to do is create something that is minimal risk, and maximum opportunity by providing a beautiful showcase, but also working together in a collective so everyone can support each other as their take their first or early steps in trading.
“This is really about encouraging young people, but the initiative as a whole is really about showcasing everything that we are producing and designing in the Midlands.”
The traders will rotate with new students and graduate products being introduced regularly.
Among those in the first crop of designers is Hannah Fewtrell-Bolton, who graduated with an MA in jewellery and silversmithing from the university-run Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) last September.
The 24-year-old works in a collective with fellow designers in the Jewellery Quarter and is hoping to launch her online boutique selling bespoke jewellery.
Along with her own designs, Hannah is using her time at the Birmingham Made Me store to sell designs made by fellow students.
She said: “People shouldn’t be afraid of fashion, and express themselves through it.
“This shop is great, because before we’ve been able to exhibit our work in Europe, but not in Birmingham.
“When I get the website up and running, I want it to be about bespoke, statement jewellery.”
Also among the other young entrepreneurs to take part in the project is textile designer Sara Page current student Fiona Oghorie, who has turned a love of hair extensions into a burgeoning business idea after importing and selling extensions to hairdressers and even brides-to-be. Ms Nielsen said her role at the university had brought home the wealth of young creative talent in Birmingham.
She said: “I’ve been working in business environments all my life, and for the last three years at the university.
“All I can say is that in those three years, I’ve really had my eyes opened to what amazing talent we have.
“I’ve also seen what fantastic opportunities there are to blossom, because through faculties such as BIAD and performance media and English there are some really great areas that I wasn’t aware of when I was at the CBI.
“I’ve learned so much about the talent of young people in that time.”
The Birmingham Made Me Design EXPO will take place at the Mailbox from June 15 to 22.
The project has been driven by Birmingham City University with support from names such as Jaguar Land Rover and Aga.
It will feature more than 100 exhibitors from business and education, and will incorporate a ‘design fringe’ programme with more than 20 art and design seminars and activities.
One of the stars of the show will be the Jaguar plug-in hybrid C-X75, which is set to cost around £750,000.
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