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Boot Room’s kick-start with competition win

FOOTBALL enthusiasts in Grimsby will soon be able to get their feet in some of the most sought-after footwear in the game.

Boot Room’s kick-start with competition win

After impressing judges to win the recent Freshney Place Apprentice Retailer competition, Lee Shakespeare is today opening his new Boot Room store, bringing boots and cross-fit trainers to shoppers at prices that won’t have them crying ‘foul!’

A former goalkeeper on the books at Aston Villa through his teenage years, the father-of-five settled in the area having initially worked as a bar manager at Butlins in Skegness, when he didn’t make the professional ranks.  He moved to Grimsby in 1999, and worked in electrical retail, car sales and latterly signage – even working on last year’s winning Go Cruise fit-out.

His first love remained football and after struggling to find a pair of football boots for his son Harry, he found his own business niche.

“I realised there would be people who didn’t have the same contacts as me who simply couldn’t get hold of the type of boots I could at these prices,” said Lee. “I took the plunge and bought 22 pairs, and then sold every pair for a profit within a day.” 

Re-investing and buying more, he sold through a Facebook page during the evening while continuing to work his day job, and Boot Room had begun.

“The boots I source are the ones worn by professional and semi-pro footballers, as well as amateurs, and I already supply footwear to a number of professionals and Futsal League players across the country,” he said.

Working with suppliers to make exclusive boots, along the lines of Wayne Rooney testimonial special editions and Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired CR7s, making them available to football fans at less than the recommended retail price.

“Once I decided to make this into a full-time business, I took Boot Room on the road,” said Lee. “I would go to football tournaments and set up a stall, selling more than 200 pairs at a time.

“I’ve been operating from my family dining room, and when I heard about the Apprentice Retailer competition I figured I had as good a chance of winning as anyone and so took a shot and entered.”

In June, Ben Robinson joined him to push it on the web, and – putting his application together in 36 hours – he entered the Dragon’s Den-style competition, organised by Freshney Place in partnership with E-Factor’s Business Hive. Now his six-month tenancy, free of rent, rates and service charges, begins.

“I had previously looked at taking premises but I wanted to walk before running, and I truly believe now is the time to go to the next level with Boot Room and get a great looking premises in a great shopper environment,” he said. “I’m absolutely over the moon to have been one of the winners of the competition and to be given this opportunity. It’s such an exciting time, and I can’t wait to throw the doors open after the Christmas lights switch-on.”

He sponsors Mariners goalkeeper James McKeown, as well as Betty Kirby at Boston United Academy, spotted playing in a team of boys. 

Second-hand sparkle brought a second winner forward, as entrepreneurs vying for the prize could not be separated.

Monica Atkin’s House of Monica, to open soon, will be a “unique women’s clothing boutique”, offering “previously cherished” designer clothing and accessories at affordable prices. 

Pursuing her passion for fashion, the professional recruiter  will showcase designer garments from exclusive brands such as Versace, Christian Dior and Gucci .

“The standard of entry in this year’s competition was incredibly high,” said Amanda Austin, centre director at Freshney Place. 

“The judging panel met the shortlisted finalists and after some intense conversations, we came to the conclusion that both Boot Room and House of Monica were terrific fledgling businesses which could not only thrive at the centre but also bring something different.

“Trying to launch is no mean feat. This is Freshney Place’s and Business Hive’s way of helping these entrepreneurs hit the ground running and not be held back by rising start-up costs.”

Looking at the two individually, Mrs Austin said: “Monica has proven herself in the business world over and over again, and after her presentation it was clear that she had brought the same passion and expertise to the Apprentice Retailer competition.

“There is literally nothing quite like what she will be bringing to the centre, and we’re excited to show shoppers the amazing designer fashions and accessories she has to offer.”

Of Boot Room, Mrs Austin said she was confident that Lee’s dedication, professionalism and expertise would help establish it 

“During the interviews Lee gave a compelling presentation in which he showed his passion and commitment to helping young footballers obtain the best products at a discounted price,” she said. 

“We’re delighted to welcome Lee as our newest signing to Freshney Place.”

Advice and support from E-Factor’s Business Hive comes with the six-month tenancy, free of rent, rates and service charges. 

Mark Webb, pictured left, managing director of E-Factor, said the business support team would be working closely with both of the apprentice retailers as they begin building their businesses at Freshney Place. 

“It has been terrific to again be involved in helping new talent right here in the community,” Mr Webb said.

 “Business Hive is committed to nurturing local businesses and helping them thrive, so we’re extremely proud to be involved with the Apprentice Retailer initiative.

 “Both Lee and Monica demonstrated as much passion as professionalism, and we’re delighted that they have both been given this brilliant opportunity to take their business from a small-scale to wherever they dare to dream.”

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