IT started off as a brainwave during lockdown.

But after running her spices and seasonings business for just a year, Sarah Clarke has been named North West Young Trader of the Year.

The 28-year-old also sees 'Rub and Roll' as a way to offer financial security for her family so it has very much been a silver lining of the pandemic.

Sarah picked up the title after a regional heat and then a north west final of the Young Traders Market competition which were both held at Time Square.

The national contest is hosted by the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF), which was set up to offer a springboard for young business owners aged between 16 and 30.

Sarah, who lives in Warrington town centre, will now go on to compete in the final in Stratford-upon-Avon on August 27 and 28.

Best-seller Pickled Onion Salt

Best-seller Pickled Onion Salt

She said: "Honestly I can’t get my head around it. To go in a year from just having an idea to something that has won an award is the best thing.

"We’re doing this for our family at the end of the day. My partner has three children and it’s nice building something for us all. We’ve got two teenagers who are more than happy to taste test anything we throw their way."

Rob Leicester, who runs the Warrington Fruit and Veg stall, won the competition in 2018 and has been throwing words of encouragement Sarah's way for the final hurdle.

Sarah, who met her partner Steve Solley at The Waterside where she used to work, added: "I’d love to win the final. Rob won a few years ago and he’s adamant I’m going to bring the crown back to Warrington.

"He keeps telling me the crown needs to come back home."

Sarah started Rub and Roll in July 2020 – it came about as a result of her being a 'rubbish cook'.

Sarah Clarke with her partner Steve Solley

Sarah Clarke with her partner Steve Solley

She said: "At the time I worked in hospitality and my partner was a chef and obviously we were both furloughed at the time and bored.

"I’m a pretty rubbish cook in all honesty and I think he just got sick of me giving him rubbish food. He doesn’t admit this but I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.

"So he started putting together little jars of seasoning – it was a way for me to make whatever food I was making taste a bit better without any hassle.

"Then when he was trying some new combinations he was giving them to friends to try. We kept getting asked: ‘Why don’t you sell these?’ So I sat down with pen and paper and Rub and Roll was born.

"It probably took me about a month from that initial idea to getting the website up-and-running.

"A lot had to go into it beforehand like registering with the council and making sure our labels were up to scratch but I’m quite determined when I get going on something.

Some of the Rub and Roll products

Some of the Rub and Roll products

"A lot of research went into to make sure we were as legitimate as possible. I always wanted it to be seen as a proper business – rather than a lockdown business that was thrown together."

Warrington will be well represented in the final as the hunt for the UK's Young Trader of the Year continues.

More than 6,000 people came down to Time Square to show their support for the traders and watch as 13 young traders secured their spot.

As well as being named North West Young Trader of the Year, Sarah came top in her category, with other category winners being named as URURA, Entwined Kokedama and Archchis.

Also making it through to the final from Warrington are GeeArte Makes, Kingswood Candle Co, Ellie Francesca Design, Trufflicious and Sweet Stephella – all of which were awarded highly commended in their categories.

Other winners on the day were Sam’s Bakehouse, CMD Tutoring, Scrunchie Shack UK and What We Made, who will join the other finalists in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Sarah Clarke

Sarah Clarke

Sarah, who has around 25 Rub and Roll product lines with the customer favourite being Pickled Onion Salt, reckons young entrepreneurs in Warrington have been crying out for an opportunity like this after the frustrations of lockdown.

She added: "From the traders I’ve spoke to who are progressing through the competition it is about 50-50 between people who have started businesses during lockdown and others who have always had their businesses but used lockdown as a time to grow them.

"I can’t really let myself get nervous about the final because I’ve got so much going on. Like next week we’re doing a food festival in Yorkshire that will have 25,000 people.

"But it’s great to see so many people from Warrington doing well because honestly the competition was fierce. I did not expect to win because there were so many fantastic businesses there on the day."