Young entrepreneur Abi Proctor is proof that anything is possible if you try hard enough…
Leaving teaching in March 2020, as the Coronavirus pandemic hit, the 25-year-old turned to sewing – using her mum’s old and faulty Brother machine – in a bid to help keep positive and help her mental health.
Fast forward a little over two years later and she’s the founder of “Abi Through the Ears”, a successful enterprise selling hand-made items like headbands, hair scrunchies and tote bags at her new shop at Middleport Pottery, online and through local artisan markets.
Abi has also now she’s added a further string to her bow – after making the regional final of the Young Traders Market, a national competition run by the National Market Traders Federation to encourage 16 to 30-year-olds to use markets as a platform to start or grow their business.
Abi, who lives in Biddulph, impressed judges after taking up the fantastic offer of a free outdoor pitch on The Stones in Newcastle recently, trading alongside other competitors and friendly market regulars, and is now attending the regional market in Wolverhampton on Saturday, 13 August with hopes of competing for the prestigious title of “National Young Trader of the Year” at the final in Stratford-upon-Avon.
“I needed something to help improve my mental health so turned to my mum’s sewing machine, said Abi.
“It missed stitches and constantly chomped up the material but I felt so much pride when I finally got to the end of a make.
“I invested in a new machine and started sewing at every spare minute I had. After many failed attempts, this led to the creation of my five star rated scrunchie. After using bobbles for years, I discovered that scrunchies were much better for my thick hair but the ones I bought could only wrap around twice so they couldn’t hold my hair up for long periods of time. As my business grew, so did the amount of products I made.
“My business means so much to me. It’s helped my mental health as it has given me something to focus on outside of the education environment that I work in. I use sewing to de-stress. It’s not all about sales but the warm feeling I get when anyone shows me any type of support. I’m delighted to reach the regional finals of the Young Traders Market competition. The market in Newcastle was fab – it was great to trade alongside so many great young traders. I still can’t believe that I was chosen to go through to the next round. I’m absolutely over the moon.”
Judging places heavy emphasis on quality of product, social media presence and publicity but also focuses on elements such as professionalism, sales skills, cleanliness, stock levels, unique selling point, knowledge and pricing.
Cllr Stephen Sweeney, Cabinet member for finance, town centres and growth, added: “The Council is delighted to support this fantastic competition once again. We want to nurture young talent and encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs to try market trading. It provides young people with a valuable opportunity while offering something different to our growing number of visitors at Newcastle-under-Lyme Markets. I would like to congratulate Abi on her fantastic achievement. Her story is so inspiring.
“There was lots of strong competition from fellow young traders but her brilliant business stood out as it’s contemporary, well considered, well branded and popular. We were also delighted to see Abi supporting the Castle Artisan Market the following day. I wish her lots of luck in the regional finals – I hope she enjoys this great experience.”
More information about Abi’s work is available on her website and social media accounts.