Independent travel agency ItsSo Travel has won a year’s free shop lease at a busy Cambridge shopping centre after a Dragon’s Den-style contest.

The agency, a member of the Global Travel Group, came runners-up in the Grow at The Grafton competition run by The Grafton centre after 76 applicants were whittled down to nine to deliver a presentation about their business plan.

ItsSo Travel owners and husband-and-wife team Claire and Paul Welling, who set up their agency four years ago and have a shop in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, had to pitch in front of Legal & General fund manager Tom Williams and centre manager John O’Shea last month.

They were one of the two businesses to win a shop lease in the centre, rent, rates and services-free for 12 months – worth around £100,000.

They now plan to open their new ‘concept’ store in November, to include sofas, interactive screens, and booking pods.

Claire said: “It was absolutely amazing to win this. We wanted to open another store anyway and when we read about this competition we thought, why wouldn’t we stand a chance?”

Paul added: “The Grow at The Grafton team shared our vision for the future of high street travel agents as we aim to create an inspirational, luxurious and dynamic space in which our customers can book their dream holidays.”

O’Shea said: “After hearing Itso Travel’s pitch, myself and the rest of the Grow at The Grafton team knew they were a concept we had to get on board with.

“With them being a family-run business, it was immediately clear that customer satisfaction is at the heart of everything they do. They have proven to be incredibly popular with the local catchment and they will bring a completely different offering to our shoppers at The Grafton.”

The competition was launched earlier this year to give local business owners and entrepreneurs the chance to secure retail space at The Grafton following a £28.5 million redevelopment of the centre last year.

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