Start-ups offered the chance to get in front of high street dragons

StartUp Britain has joined forces with John Lewis to launch PitchUp – an initiative that will give emerging British retailers the chance to pitch their products to the retail giant.

The shortlisted businesses will have submitted a well-developed product concept, which will help win them access to John Lewis buyers. The finalists will then have the opportunity to work closely with the buyers who will help them refine their products and/or services through a bespoke mentoring scheme, with the aim of seeing their design stocked on John Lewis shelves.

StartUp Britain co-founder Emma Jones said: “Getting a foot through the door of a major high street retailer is what dreams are made of for small businesses.

“We’re delighted that John Lewis has joined us to offer talented British businesses a unique opportunity. This is a really great example of what can happen when big helps small – and it’s just what British start-ups need.”

Anna Rigby, head of buying, home accessories & gifts at John Lewis said: “The StartUp Britain scheme is really exciting on a number of levels and we are proud to be part of PitchUp, which actively supports British business.

“Through PitchUp we’ll be looking for new products and services from emerging British-based talent that will delight our customers. We are particularly keen to find new products that offer innovation, function and unique design combined with a commercial edge and we look forward to working with a range of talented businesses and playing our part in helping to nurture Britain’s future retailing talent.”

John Lewis seeks to promote, encourage and support British enterprise as demonstrated by its ownership of Herbert Parkinson a Lancashire-based factory. The factory weaves John Lewis own-brand fabrics, produces duvets and pillows, and operates its made to order in seven-day curtain and blind service. John Lewis identifies these and 4000 other products made in the UK with a new John Lewis identifier, ‘Made in UK’, to help customers find products manufactured in the UK.

Businesses have until September 17 to apply online to be in with a chance of being included in the pitching event on October 23, which will see finalists presenting to a panel of John Lewis buyers.

Selected finalists will benefit from expert mentoring from the John Lewis buyers and will include practical guidance and assistance to help develop and prepare a polished final design that is ready for sale.

The competition is part of a wider initiative called StartUp High Street, launched earlier this year, which saw StartUp Britain offer co-funded retail space to online start-ups via empty high street shops. So far PopUp Britain has seen 22 start-ups co-working in an empty estate agents shop in Richmond, Surrey. The campaign has plans to roll out its pop-up blueprint to areas around the UK, helping to rejuvenate flagging high streets.