Event celebrates success of young West Cumbrian entrepreneurs

18th July 2023

Seven inspiring young West Cumbrians, who started their own businesses, have been praised for their nous and ingenuity. All seven took part in Positive Enterprise, an initiative from Cumbria Community Foundation and the Centre for Leadership Performance to help young people from Allerdale and Copeland go into business.

Their achievements were recognised at a celebratory event at Lakes College, Workington, to mark the end of the first year of the programme.

All participants, aged 15 to 25, have received a £1,000 grant, mentoring from an experienced businessperson and performance and leadership development.

Aiden Thompson, 15, from Whitehaven, collected an extra £1,000 after judges were impressed by his presentation. His business, Cumbria Coastal Crafts, produces framed pebble art and customised laser engraved products.

He said: “I saw a gap in the market and it has been very successful. Positive Enterprise helped me take it from an idea to a business. The grant paid for equipment and the mentoring helped me find the best ways to sell the products and explore potential opportunities.”

Rachel McCartney, 24, of Holmrook, had the most ambitious idea. She has set up McCartney Sustainable Solutions to recycle food waste into compost, fertiliser and biofuel, and is in the process of raising £1.2m. She said: “In Cumbria, we are paying £100 a tonne to dispose of food waste in landfill. I thought there were better ways of dealing with it.”

Lennon Glass, 15, from Cockermouth, trades as Artify making customised and bespoke wool rugs. He said: “I do school work on weekdays and make rugs at the weekend. All the rugs are from UK-sourced wool and profits go to the WI.”

Bethany Goodall, 24, of Workington, established the Lake District Academy of Theatre Arts to provide affordable musical theatre workshops. She said: “Having one-to-one sessions with a mentor gave me a real insight into how to sell my idea. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do that.”

Three of the participants could not be there in person but told their stories through pre-recorded presentations.

Josh Coombe, 15, from Whitehaven, used his grant to buy printing equipment for JC Stitch and Style, which offer fully customisable clothing and mugs.

Luke Eilbeck, 18, of Wigton, has set up Mad4Kit selling vintage secondhand football memorabilia while studying for his A-levels.

And Jack Fleming, 19, from Whitehaven, runs JF Entertainment, a mobile DJ service, which has expanded thanks to Positive Enterprise.

The guest speaker was Sally Phillips, founder of Chimney Sheep in Workington, which makes draught excluders from Herdwick wool. She offered advice and encouragement to the participants.

“I’ve always taken it one step at a time, and now I employ 14 people with a turnover of £2.2m,” Sally said. “It’s not always been fun and games, things do go wrong, but I just ride the wave. I hope you all have adventures as well.”

David Beeby, Chair of Cumbria Community Foundation, added: “We’ve heard different stories from different personalities with different approaches. Every one of them was very impressive. I wish the young entrepreneur all luck in what they’re doing. Business is hard work but you need luck as well.”

Cumbria Community Foundation hopes to repeat Positive Enterprise in 2024.

The programme is funded by the Cumbria-based property developer Brian Scowcroft with match funding from Sellafield Ltd as part of its Transforming West Cumbria programme, the Low Level Waste Repository Ltd (LLWR), Well Whitehaven, Morgan Sindall and Kaefer.

Samantha McKenzie, of Nuclear Waste Services, thought it money well spent. She said: “One of the priorities for the LLWR as a funder is to help young people to develop their skills and knowledge and to be the best they can be. Every single one of them has done that.”

And Laurie Crayston, an entrepreneur who acted as a mentor to Josh Coombe, said: “I like to think that I gave him useful pointers. Every issue he encountered was something I’d had to deal with my own business at some point.”