Entrepreneurs win spots at Hartlepool shopping centre’s market hall

'The Candy Factory' stallholder Ashley Gleeson(left) with 'Two Time Champ' stallholder Denis Brown and Middleton Grange shopping Centre manager Mark Rycraft(centre).
'The Candy Factory' stallholder Ashley Gleeson(left) with 'Two Time Champ' stallholder Denis Brown and Middleton Grange shopping Centre manager Mark Rycraft(centre).
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Budding entrepreneurs are making their way in the business world after winning an enterprise competition set up by a Hartlepool shopping centre.

Denis Brown, 35 and Ashley Gleeson, 34, who are both from the town, were the lucky candidates selected to set up their own businesses as part of Middleton Grange’s New Horizons initiative.

'The Candy Factory' stallholder Ashley Gleeson(right) with 'Two Time Champ' stallholder Denis Brown.

'The Candy Factory' stallholder Ashley Gleeson(right) with 'Two Time Champ' stallholder Denis Brown.

Their businesses 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 – which he has designed and created himself, while 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.

'Two Time Champ' stallholder Denis Brown.

'Two Time Champ' stallholder Denis Brown.

“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 different fabrics and textiles, 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.

'The Candy Factory' stallholder Ashley Gleeson.

'The Candy Factory' stallholder Ashley Gleeson.

Denis said: “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.”

With the help of his long-term partner, Craig Thompson, Ashley turned a vision and flair for creativity into a standalone sweet treats enterprise.

Ashley 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’.”

Mark added: “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.”