TestTown winner has ‘potential for a town centre footprint’

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Billy Ashe with Test Town winner Lisa Davis, AM Weddings and Events.  INCT 45-727-CON
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Billy Ashe with Test Town winner Lisa Davis, AM Weddings and Events. INCT 45-727-CON

A local business providing occasion and wedding packages has been crowned winner of the Carrickfergus TestTown initiative.

Lisa Davis from AM Weddings and Events was handed the top prize during a celebration event at Raceview Mill, Broughshane on Thursday night.

Standing: L-R Sharon Millar (Orabel Art); Kat Atkinson (The Shabbydashery); Kelli Bagchus (Carrickfergus Enterprise); and Ruth Wilson (Bags and Bunting).  Seated L-R Lisa Davis (AM Weddings and Events); Vicki Foster (VFDdesigns); Cllr. Billy Ashe (Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough)and Danielle Gault (Manna Cards).  INCT 45-728-CON

Standing: L-R Sharon Millar (Orabel Art); Kat Atkinson (The Shabbydashery); Kelli Bagchus (Carrickfergus Enterprise); and Ruth Wilson (Bags and Bunting). Seated L-R Lisa Davis (AM Weddings and Events); Vicki Foster (VFDdesigns); Cllr. Billy Ashe (Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough)and Danielle Gault (Manna Cards). INCT 45-728-CON

Lisa will go forward to represent Carrick next year in the Carnegie UK Trust TestTown grand final, with the chance of winning a £10,000 investment in her business.

The TestTown project saw six local entrepreneurs set up a pop-up shop in the town centre from August 27-31.

Based at the former Suit premises in Joymount, the unit offered the businesses the opportunity to ‘test trade’ their products.

Feedback for the pop-up venture was overwhelmingly positive, with many shoppers suggesting it should become a permanent fixture.

Speaking during Thursday night’s event, Mid and East Antrim Mayor, Councillor Billy Ashe acknowledged the contribution of all six entrepreneurs towards making the initiative such a success.

“Having previously visited Raceview Mill, I thought this would be an ideal location to allow the group to see an example elsewhere in our borough of a similar artisans’ collective, which has managed to establish a permanent commercial presence to showcase their products,” he added.

Jim Metcalfe of Carnegie UK Trust commended all of the participants, describing the retail environment created by the TestTown Carrickfergus team as one of the most engaging and attractive that he has seen in his wide experience over the three years the scheme has been running.

Mr Metcalfe added: “AM Weddings and Events has an excellent range of products which were beautifully presented and highly marketable. Lisa demonstrates fantastic understanding of her market and this is a promising business with genuine potential for a town centre footprint.”

Throughout the scheme, the six local businesses were put through a rigorous set of evaluation measures.

Firstly, participants had been scored by a range of mystery shoppers over the course of the trading period.

Experts from Carnegie UK Trust, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, and Carrickfergus Enterprise Agency also assessed the trading environment created by each participant.

Finally, participants made an informal presentation to a panel of experts who assessed them across a range of measures including business viability, potential for contribution to the town centre retail environment, and the lessons learned by the participants from their experience.