I’m no business expert, but shopping is my forte. So when I was asked to pick three start-up companies to start trading in The Mall Wood Green for free, I jumped at the chance.

The High Road shopping centre runs the annual Retail Factor competition, offering traders a punt at opening a stall in the mall for two weeks, rent-free. After writing story after story about struggling high streets and shops closing due to lack of business, it seemed like the sort of scheme we should be backing.


Feeling like Wood Green’s answer to Tulisa, I joined Michael Thompson, general manager of the mall, Jackie Webb, the Mall’s promotions administrator, and Raul Mancera, from the Federation of Small Businesses, to get acquainted with the hefty wad of application forms.

Knowing my business acumen is hardly up to scratch, I looked for goods that would appeal to me as a rapidly approaching mid-20s, strapped-for-cash female who regularly shops in Wood Green. I can usually justify splashing out on jewellery, so one business immediately stood out from the crowd.

The quirky pieces from T&T Jewellery, run by Fayola Massiah from Finsbury Park and her sister, impressed all the wannabe Simon Cowells, and I for one am exceedingly pleased it will soon set up shop in the Mall.

Next to catch our eye was a novel business specialising in  handmade personalised gift sets stuffed with goodies. Bouba Boutique, run by Raaidah Jangtorun from Tottenham, was also given the seal of approval.

Finally, we selected a Kirsty Allsopp-inspired business selling handmade bits and pieces including bags, cushion covers, cards and prints. Angeliques Textiles, run by Angelique Medhurst in Kent, impressed us all with the quality but good value of her products. With an average price of £5, I know I'll justify a few trips down there.

Manager Michael was impressed with the businesses, and is looking forward to nurturing the start ups to make sure they reach their full potential. He said: "The calibre of entries was especially high this year and it was difficult to choose just three finalists, however we are confident we have identified some strong businesses."

The traders will need support, as the most successful will be entered into a competition with a chance of winning another two weeks' space, a place on a business course, as well as £500 towards stock.

Angeliques Textiles will start trading from March 18 to 30, T&T Jewellery from April 1 to 14, and last but not least will be Bouba Boutique between April 15 to 28. I'll see you there!