Twenty-seven-year-old Grace Hancock of Basford, Newcastle-under-Lyme, has been highly commended at a National Youth Market competition.

The artist and entrepreneur, who ran her own stall at the Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council’s second young traders market, is in with a chance of being crowned national “young trader of the year” and winning a cash prize of £500.

Grace, who creates and sells patchwork pet portraits under her brand Cushy Paws, was recognised by markets industry experts the competition’s regional heats, held in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and will now take her place representing the West Midlands in Stratford-upon-Avon to compete for the prestigious title of Young Trader of the Year 2020 in the annual competition.

Young people are invited to run their own outdoor pitches in Newcastle in the first stage of the annual initiative by the National Market Traders Federation – the only national UK organisation representing market traders – which aims to encourage more 16-30 year olds to consider incorporating market trading into their business model.
While the Covid-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of nine regional finals, the traders involved were judged remotely by a panel of retail market experts.

Grace will take part in the finals on Friday 28 – Saturday 29 August 2020 at Waterside in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.

Cushy Paws owner and artist, Grace Hancock says; “I’m delighted to have been highly commended. As I’m from Newcastle myself, it was really great to be part of the market in July and I hope to come along again. I enjoyed the day and sold more than expected. The organisers were really helpful and it’s got a lot of potential. It’s a lovely little town. I hope to do the West Midlands proud at the national finals this weekend. I’m really excited, as well as nervous, and I’m looking forward to trading in such a nice place.”

Cllr.Stephen Sweeney, Cabinet member for finance and efficiency, added: “The Council is delighted to be involved in this fantastic competition once again. It’s a brilliant way to give talented young people like Grace the opportunity to try market trading while offering
something different to our visitors. I wish to congratulate Grace on her achievements and wish her the best of luck in the finals.
“We’re currently putting a great deal of effort into breathing new life into Newcastle’s historic market and it’s recognised that attracting new traders, especially young ones, is one way of doing this.”

Grace set up local business Cushy Paws, in 2017 after graduating from Loughborough University with a First Class Honours degree in Textiles and Innovation Design. Her range includes personalised pet portrait commissions, mugs, prints, tea towels, tote bags, wall-hangings, cushions and greetings cards.

Grace will travel to Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend to compete in the socially-distanced final against 45 other traders, aged 16 to 30, for the title. The winner will receive £500 and the chance to enhance their profile, with last year’s winner being featured on BBC TV’s One Show.

Grace Hancock of Cushy Paws. Image courtesy of LSD Promotions.

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