Support Our Town: We’re stepping upmarket

Photography business: Matt Langton

Photography business: Matt Langton

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Leyland could soon be stepping upmarket as a project to offer free market stalls to ambitious youths is on the cards.

Last week, as part of the paper’s Support Our Town campaign, the Guardian revealed a 10-point action plan which would boost town centre trade, if government funding is made available to Leyland.

It is part of celebrity shopping guru Mary Portas’s pledge to help transform 12 towns across the country, which will also be given a share of £1m from the government.

One of the proposals on Leyland’s application, which was drawn up by community leaders, business people and South Ribble Council, is to launch a mentoring programme for successful entrepreneurs to offer guidance to people just starting out.

Step UPMARKET would also involve giving young people a market stall to practise their skills on for a short time, and will work especially well if another action point, to expand the outdoor market on to Hough Lane, also gets the go-ahead.

Now, a young businessman in the town has thrown his weight behind the campaign, and has pledged to become a mentor if the scheme comes to light.

Matthew Langton, 27, set up Mattefinish Photography on Towngate around two years ago, and believes that support in the early days is vital to any business.

He said: “I really want to help people and to pass on anything I’ve learnt from my experiences. It doesn’t have to be a photography business, it can be a new market stall or another shop, but I think I can pass on some advice about running a business in general.”

He said that managing money is the main challenge he faced when he started out, and he sought support from a firm offering new starters advice. But he feels a new Step UPMARKET project could be more of a long-term plan.

“People want to be in it for the long-haul,” he said. “If I become a mentor, I’ll always be at the end of the phone to help someone, even if it’s months or years down the line.

“I think that the first two years are the hardest because you have to put almost everything you earn back into the business, and not keep much money for yourself.

“You really do learn a lot on the job, and it does take time, but having someone to support you throughout it all would really make a difference.”

Matt thinks the scheme is particularly needed for the younger generation, as he was only 25 when he opened his shop.

“It wasn’t too long ago when I was going through this,” he said.

“I hear older people talking about how teens and youths hang out on the streets, and I want to help change that.

“All they need is a bit of encouragement.”

The Town Team, which compiled the Portas application, is working with South Ribble Council, which runs and manages the market, Runshaw College and local businesses to develop the Step UPMARKET scheme.

A 19-year-old has also spoken out about why she thinks the project is a good idea.

Karya Worden is studying tourism and event management at the University of Central Lancashire, and is currently doing a work placement with the Leyland Festival Committee.

She said: “It can be difficult these days for young people to get into business, so I think that having this kind of support would be a great help.

“A lot of people my age are interested in doing something on their own, rather than working in a shop like a national retailer, because they’ve got lots of new ideas.

“I just think they need the confidence to do it, and they need encouragement and support.”