Sophie named Young Trader of the Year 2022 for her eye-catching textiles

THE NMTF’s Young Trader of the Year for 2022 is Sophie Mann, whose colourful textiles inspired by the Suffolk countryside caught the judges’ eye.

The winner was announced following the final of the campaign held over two days in Stratford-upon-Avon on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Sophie is pictured above with NMTF President-Elect Mike Riley, NMTF National President John Dyson and the Chairman of Stratford-on-Avon District Council Coun Mark Cargill.

Like quite a few of the 90 young traders who set up stall at the grand final, Sophie started her business called Sophie April Mann Textile Designs during the Covid lockdown.

Having graduated from Nottingham Trent University, the 25-year-old was two years into a career in fashion design when the pandemic struck and she found herself at home in Long Melford, Suffolk, looking for a new avenue for her talent and creativity.

“I have always loved art and I am inspired by the flowers, birds and wildlife of the countryside around where I live,” she said.

She began designing textiles which she had made into kitchen items in Stoke-on-Trent. “I started selling a few tea towels and oven gloves on websites and it grew from there,” she said.

Soon Sophie was selling at craft markets and on the internet and she now trades at Bury St Edmunds makers’ market once a month.

The NMTF’s Young Traders Market campaign celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.

From relatively small beginnings, it has grown into an incredibly successful campaign with young trader events held on markets up and down the country, the winners going on to 10 regional finals involving a total of 250 young traders, and 90 young people progressing to the final.

Joe Harrison, CEO of the NMTF, said this year’s campaign had been bigger and better than ever. “We were particularly pleased to have added North and South Wales and Belfast in Northern Ireland to the tally of regional finals,” he said.

Joe explained that the campaign was launched to address the need to attract new blood and young recruits into the markets industry.

“We have an incredible asset in our retail markets which are the backbone of so many market towns and bring life and vibrancy to our cities.

“They are such an important part of our history and heritage, but don’t always get the recognition and investment they deserve.”

“There are so many examples of multinationals that started with a market trader selling from a humble stall. Tesco, Marks & Spencer, The Range and Matalan are all businesses started by market traders.

“And in these difficult times, we need entrepreneurship and fresh ideas more than ever,” he added.

Joe said the NMTF was grateful for the continuing support given to the campaign by Stratford on Avon District Council, Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council and market operators LSD Promotions.

As in previous years, the Young Traders Market campaign was grouped into four different categories — Food and Drink, Arts and Crafts, Grocery and General Retail.

The young people involved were selling everything from street food and drinks to beautiful art work, jewellery, clothes, candles and confectionery.

The judges spent hours watching the young traders sell their goods and they took into account everything from the quality of the lines and their stall displays, to their customer engagement and the imaginative ways they promoted their businesses.

As well as being named overall winner, which as well as the trophy comes with a £500 cash prize and a mobile credit card terminal from NMTF sponsors Multipay, Sophie Mann won the General Retail Category.

The NMTF is also grateful for the support of its sponsor Gala Tent, whose Ryan Bracha was a judge at the Yorkshire and Humber regional final in Doncaster.

Jodie  Brown, who won the Food and Drink category, began her business Ninety Eight Cocktails during the lockdown after she was furloughed from her sales job. After her workplace organised a Zoom cocktail-making competition to keep up spirits, Jodie, who hails from Beverley in Yorkshire, began looking at what cocktails were on the market.

“The cocktails you could buy all seemed to have lots of artificial additives and E numbers,” she said.

So she set about making her own using only natural pressed fruits such as passion flower.

The name of her business came from her birth year, and Jodie is now selling her cocktails on markets including Malton, and is awaiting a license to enable her to sell to shops.

Grace Hancock, who won the Arts and Crafts category, started her business Cushy Paws five years ago. She starts with cut-out recycled fabric and sews it to create beautiful artwork of animals, which is transformed into designs for everything from cards and prints to cushions.

It all began with a design with her mum’s dog Millie, followed by her own cockapoo Maple. “Now I do pets and animals and the business is going well,” she said.

The Grocery category winner, Anthony Johnson, aged 28 and from Llanelli, trained as a chef at 16 and worked at several top restaurants in Wales and London, including a Michelin starred one, before finding himself at home because of the pandemic.

“I needed to earn some cash and I decided to make brownies, fudge and double stack cookies because most people were stuck at home and I thought I could offer then the experience of a luxurious sweet to enjoy at home at a time when there was no option to eat out,” he said.

His business took off and he now sells at a number of different markets.

Anthony’s new business fits in well with his role as a dad to a nine month old. “I enjoy the flexibility and I am passionate about what I do,” he said.

As well as the winners, there were two highly commended businesses in each category. In the General Retail category, Calum Mogridge of Clean Beach Limited was highly commended, along with Ayo Abedeji of The Plain Shop.

In Food and Drink, Black & Gold Distillery run by  bothers Ryan and Jacob Goryl, Molly Dray and Willow Jarvis were highly commended, as was Praj Mehta of Big Black Cab Events.

In Arts and Grafts, Sophie Clarke of Sophie Clarke Designs and Alana Jones of Alana Jayne Jewellery were both highly commended.

And in the Grocery category the highly commended winners were Jake Fisher of The Cheesy Living Company and Lauren Thompson of L’taurusweet.

THE REGIONAL FINALS

To read more in our archive about the 10 regional finals click here.