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Eco Market

Leeds graduates Jason Dainter and Liam Patterson are seeing their business, Eco Market, expand rapidly – thanks to hard work and investment of over £350,000. From its launch in 2010, the online marketplace has grown to support over 1,700 stall owners selling a wide range of eco-friendly, natural and fair trade products and now aims to expand further into the US and Australian markets.

Eco Market aims to complement the growing trend for farmers’ markets and craft fairs to meet the needs of the ethical consumer.

The story behind the product is very important to our customers, says Liam. Eco Market personalises online shopping; our customers feel that they are buying from a person not a company, making the experience special.

Jason and Liam first met in 2009 at a talk given by Computing graduate Jason at the Leeds Enterprise Centre about how he had set up his own business after graduation. An Environment and Business undergraduate, Liam already had plans for an online ethical marketplace and had been awarded an Enterprise Scholarship in 2008 to progress his idea. A subsequent conversation with Jason led to their partnership, with Jason’s web development skills playing a crucial role. The business also won the ‘Trading’ category of Spark’s 2012 Business Plan Competition, further recognition of its potential for growth.

External investors agreed and, in February 2012, Eco Market secured £200,000 investment from a syndicate of high-tech business angels.

We had been trading successfully, but that investment meant that we could move to London, employ staff and prepare for international growth by strengthening our website platform.

These plans are coming to fruition; 30 per cent of the Eco Market website traffic is currently from the US and Australia – and the pair plan to increase this number thanks to a second venture capital investment of £160,000 secured this year. Investors in this round include Martin Penny, co-founder of global brand, ghd, and also a Leeds alumnus and a key benefactor of the Enterprise Scholarship Awards.

We're indebted to the support and guidance received from Spark in the early days to get the business off the ground. It's now amazing to think that so many entrepreneurs agree that our business can go global.