A sweet store with a range to rival Willy Wonka and a women’s fashion shop for the fuller bust are two of a series of companies created during lockdown now blossoming at Start-Up Street.

The enterprise centre in Paisley offers new and growing businesses their first commercial premises together with specialist support through a partnership between Renfrewshire Council and youth enterprise charity Launch It.

More than 30 fledgling firms and budding entrepreneurs are now being supported at the George Street hub, where six empty commercial units have been converted into a series of stylish digitally-connected workspaces and meeting rooms.

Alongside Grant Fraser’s sweet store SweetPunkz and Jayne Lasley’s Fairlie Curved clothing range, there’s community artist Indie McCue; Laura Hamilton’s accessible Scuba Diving company Just Dive; Corrine Cunningham’s Rainbow Buddies baby classes; Amber Ingram’s By Jungle make-up brand and Gregor Stirling’s vinyl wrapping service to name just a small selection.

Self-confessed ‘chocolate fiend’ Grant Fraser has grown SweetPunkz from concept to confectioner in just nine months, the 28-year-old Business Management graduate from Erskine using the Boxing Day lockdown as motivation to follow his sweet shop dream.

He has now built the business up to having 85+ pick and mix options and a wide range of popular products imported from the USA, Dubai and Australia.

He said: “I’ve been blown away by just how quickly things have taken off, it’s been a whirlwind. I’ve managed to build up a fantastic product range and my focus is always on growing the business further.

“I’d never taken that leap into a business premise before, but at Start-Up Street, it’s a readymade package in a great environment, meaning you don’t need to fixate on the bills, it’s a security blanket that lets you focus all your attention on growing your business. Hopefully I can make the most of my time here then turn round and say I started that business with little to no money and look at it now.”

Read Grant’s full SweetPunkz story

Just along the corridor, former fashion buyer Jayne Lasley has turned her old student project into a burgeoning online clothes business, the 42-year-old inspired into action after losing her job during lockdown.

Jayne, from Langbank, says: “I’d found myself cleaning out the garage and came across my old uni designs for Fairlie Curved and it reignited my interest. I started a styling page on Instagram and the reaction was incredible. People kept asking me if I had a shop and I thought well I’ve lost my job and I’ve always wanted to run my own business so why not.

“Moving to Start-Up Street has been incredible for me. It’s daunting to lease commercial premises, but Start-Up Street took all that worry away. It’s great the workspaces are a blank canvas and there’s mentoring and webinars for you to sign up for and it’s lovely to be able to share advice and chat with other new business owners based here too.”

Hear more about Jayne’s Fairlie Curved company

The idea for Start-Up Street came after a Renfrewshire Council survey found more than 80% of new businesses locally were looking for subsidised space to grow, but were put off by high costs and a lack of know-how.

Businesses at Start Up Street can rent the space for up to two years, with lease costs incrementally increased until they are ready to move to an alternative commercial space in Renfrewshire.

Costs cover the workspace, wifi, utility bills and provide access to meeting rooms, while there’s also one-to-one guidance, mentoring, workshops, masterclasses and support from the Launch It Paisley Enterprise Manager who is based on site and from the Council’s Business Gateway team.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson said: “Local businesses took a huge hit from the Covid-19 pandemic, with many forced to close, others furloughing staff and having to downsize their operation. Throughout this time, we’ve been there for our business community, distributing millions in grants and offering lifeline support.

“Now, as we focus on aiding our recovery and renewal, it’s heart-warming to meet the businesses and young entrepreneurs following their dreams at Start-Up Street. We made it a priority to ensure new businesses have all the help they need to thrive in Renfrewshire and I’m excited by the potential of Start-Up Street, with plans well underway to open further centres in Johnstone and Renfrew over the coming years.”

Launch It Paisley manage the George Street venture day-to-day and also deliver a programme helping young people to overcome barriers and develop their business and entrepreneurial skills, the charity boasting an impressive track record of helping more than 1,900 businesses and 11,000 young people since starting 21-years-ago.

Leon Breakey, Launch It Paisley Trustee, said: “We are delighted to be supporting young people in Renfrewshire to start and grow sustainable businesses, develop their skills and attain financial independence by doing something that they are passionate about.

“The young people we meet face challenges and have suffered setbacks, but they also bring a wealth of talent, ideas and experience. Our job is to inspire them and support them to succeed, so that they can thrive in their local communities.”

If you’d like to know more about Start-Up Street, contact us by email to renfrewshire@bgateway.com