A new furniture shop will be opening in Prescot Shopping Centre thanks to a local charity’s campaign to support entrepreneurship. Late last year One Ark, part of the First Ark Group, launched a competition to support a local retailer by providing a unit rent-free for a year.
Grace Lea, a furniture upcycling and restoration business, will open its doors on 1st June 2014.  As the brainchild of Knowsley-based owner Cheryl Mullins, Grace Lea will sell a range of high quality restored vintage furniture and bespoke items at affordable prices.  As the furniture will be restored on site, Cheryl will also host workshops from the unit, which will teach others the skills they need to upcycle their own smaller items.
Following a three-stage process, Cheryl beat off competition from 25 other business owners to win the space in the shopping centre.  Her business will now benefit from a 12 month rent-free period, full refurbishment of the premises which will be completed by Vivark, and structured business advice and support from the Merseyside Special Investment Fund, The Women’s Organisation and Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council. Cheryl also wins membership of Knowsley Chamber of Commerce.
During the three-stage process, Cheryl received free business support and training from local women’s enterprise support agency The Women’s Organisation. The Knowsley resident worked closely on a one to one basis with a business advisor to create a competition winning business plan.
Laura McCumiskey from One Ark was one of the first to congratulate Cheryl: “When Cheryl met with the panel of judges she blew us away with her enthusiasm and entrepreneurship. 
“We were searching for a unique, independent retailer to add value to our high street, and Cheryl’s business plan was robust and showed talent.  Grace Lea, which will occupy a unit that’s been empty for three years, will be a welcome addition to the shopping centre.”
Owner Cheryl Mullins adds: “This is an amazing opportunity for me to be able to get my business up and running and provide for my family. 
“To be able to operate rent-free for a year will enable me to focus on establishing and growing the business rather than worrying about covering such a large overhead.  I’m looking forward to learning from the self-employment support and developing my business, while at the same time being able to give something back to the community too.” 
One Ark’s ‘Win a Shop’ project supports the regeneration of local high streets through championing new enterprise and supporting the journey into self-employment. The project was initiated by One Ark in partnership with Knowsley Chamber of Commerce, Vivark, CBRE, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, The Women’s Organisation, Prescot Town Team, Poco Coffee and Sergeants Accountants.

One Ark was launched in August 2013 to change the lives of people in Knowsley through generating investment which will be channeled into increasing wealth and creating stronger communities.  To find out more about One Ark, please visit www.one-ark.co.uk