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Its New Horizons for two successful Hartlepool entrepreneurs

Two local budding entrepreneurs are proving they have what it takes to make it in business after being successfully selected by Middleton Grange as winners of its enterprise initiative, New Horizons.

Denis Brown, 35 and Ashley Gleeson, 34, who are both from Hartlepool, were the lucky candidates selected to set up their own businesses – which will be free from rent and rates for the first six months – at the centre’s Market Hall.

Denis has launched his own fashion range – Two Time Champ – a line which he has designed and created himself. Ashley has tapped in to his love of all things sweet and has opened The Candy Factory specialising in chocolate bouquets and sweet filled cupcake boxes.

Mark Rycraft, Middleton Grange Centre Manager, said: “This is the first time we’ve run our business-based competition and we were really pleased with the number of submissions we received. Denis and Ashley particularly impressed us with their strong, well-thought out proposals as well as their excellent quality of products. We’re delighted to have them on board and their businesses will really strengthen the Market Hall offering.”

Denis’ designs combine fashion and recycling. Using his natural ability to bring different fabrics and textiles together, he creates ensembles that are a mix of classic styles with unusual vintage pieces. He also offers customers the chance to have their own items customised into one-off pieces using this unique blend of clothing.

Already causing quite a stir, Denis’ range is proving really popular, he said: “I’ve always been passionate about the fashion industry and I realised quite early on that I could identify trends even before they hit the catwalk.

“When my clothing line started gaining popularity I knew it was time to bite the bullet and do this as a full-time job. I’m incredibly lucky to have received this amazing opportunity at Middleton Grange and I’m so excited about the future of Two Time Champ,” said Denis.

Denis will not only be selling his clothing, but shoppers will also be able to watch him work – as he has utilised half of his new premises as his workshop, so visitors to the Market Hall have the chance to see him create his inspiring outfits.

Working alongside him is fellow entrepreneur Ashley, owner of The Candy Factory. With the help of his long-term partner, Craig Thompson, he turned a vision and flair for creativity into a standalone sweet treats enterprise. Ashley said: “This is an incredible opportunity for myself and Craig. We’re really excited about it but also very nervous. My family are helping us out and without their support this could never have come to fruition.

“It has been a long journey for The Candy Factory,” he said. “We started out doing candy-themed tables for weddings, which really took off. My dad then became ill so everything went on the back burner, but once he was in recovery we knew it was the right time to try again. It was then that I saw Middleton Grange’s New Horizons campaign and thought, ‘it’s now or never’.”

Now both businesses are up and running Mark Rycraft said he could not be happier. He concluded: “It’s so important to support startups, especially when they’re homegrown, so that they’re able to thrive in our local economy. Denis and Ashley have both been incredibly impressive throughout the process and we really look forward to working with them. We wish them the best of luck for the future.”