EMPTY shops have been turned into pop-up stores in a new scheme to let young entrepreneurs try out their sales patter and test their products on the public.

After a week of business mentoring, five fledgling firms opened their doors to the public this morning (Friday) for their two-day tenancies in Middlesbrough’s Hill Street Centre and Dundas Arcade.

Supported by Middlesbrough Council and Middlesbrough College, it is one of seven shopping destinations across the UK chosen as a ‘Test Town’, letting traders aged between 16 and 30 try out their business acumen.

Haroon Ali, 20, and James Cranmer travelled up from London to roll out Bubble Creativitea, a Taiwanese tea room and art gallery. Interiors store Fusion Designs and marketing company Yummy Ads are also taking part.

Gurpreet and Nav Bains, sisters from Leicester, are keen to get feedback from customers and attract new stockists with their range of hand printed and handmade women’s fashion under their label, Major London 05.

The most successful trader from each town will win £500 and go through to compete a week-long pop-up festival being held in Cambridge this autumn, when the best performing retailer from across the country will scoop £10,000.

“Customers are getting the chance to buy from us something that is completely unique which is very exciting,” said 24-year-old Nav Bains. “Winning would be fantastic for us as we would be able to set up a proper studio instead of doing screenprints at home and it would let us take on more orders.”

Shoppers looking for a personal gift with a difference could visit Bez Parniani and have a ‘mini-me’ model created.

Originally from Iran, he moved to the region as a 17-year-old to study engineering at Newcastle University and said he is using his passion for technology to take photography to the next level.

Now 23 and settled in Middlesbrough, he is the founder of Moments in 3D. Using a handheld scanner he creates 3D models enabling clients to order their own doll versions of themselves.

“I can capture a bride’s dress on her wedding day from every angle as well as the cake. Instead of pictures on a mantle piece I can create models of every family member which will be a real talking point and a great memory.”

Launched by the charity Carnegie Trust, the other towns taking part are Coleraine, Rhyl, Kirkintilloch, Bury St Edmunds, Manchester and Perth.