The UK's most entrepreneurial towns and cities
Which areas are defying the hard market and driving entrepreneurism?
Starting up: the national picture
Let’s be under no illusions, it’s a difficult economic environment to run a small business right now. Global pressures are swelling energy and food prices - driving up inflation and supply-chain costs. Combine this with more red tape for small businesses importing/exporting to or from the EU and a difficult hiring market, and it is no surprise that the amount of small businesses dropped by 83,000 nationwide between 2021 and 2022.
This is mainly driven by a drop in businesses ‘with no employees’, namely sole-traders and the self-employed. The end of government support initiatives like the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) following the lockdowns may have contributed to this.
Businesses with employees however grew by 32,000, suggesting that for slightly larger businesses, things may not be as tough. Intrigued, we set out to explore how the business landscape has changed on a regional level since 2021 and identify which regions are bucking the trend.
|1. Wolverhampton||1. Mansfield|
|2. Worcester||2. Blackburn|
|3. Carlisle||3. Luton|
|4. Hull||4. Darlington|
|5. Norwich||5. Ipswich|
|6. Cardiff||6. Stratford-Upon-Avon|
|7. Stoke-On-Trent||7. Maidstone|
|8. Sheffield||8. Bridgend|
|9. Plymouth||9. Maldon|
|10. Southend||10. Scarborough|
Entrepreneurial attitudes to local business
What’s fuelling the growth of small businesses in these areas?
CensusWide surveyed 1,000 entrepreneurs who set up a business in the last year on our behalf, to try and understand the business environment they’re operating in a bit more. The survey ran between October 26 and November 10, 2022.
Overall, small business owners are positive about the local area in which they operate. 57% responded to our survey by saying that their local area is a great place to be an entrepreneur.
Wherever a small business sets up, it is most likely to stay there regardless of growth. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents to our survey indicated that they would keep their business HQ where they set up, even if they plan on expanding into new areas. This indicates that attracting new small businesses to an area is an important factor in long-term economic growth.
Using data released by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), we analysed the difference in the total number of small businesses (0-49 employees) per town/city between 2021 and 2022.
We then cross-referenced these numbers with the latest population data to generate a ‘small business per capita score’ for each location. This allowed us to pinpoint the 10 most entrepreneurial towns and cities in the UK that have seen the highest growth in new small businesses!
House of Zana, Darlington
Amber Kotrri started House of Zana in Darlington in 2018, initially as an online business, specialising in handmade garments which she designed and made herself. In November 2019, she opened her first store in Darlington and, after a tough year in 2020 she now employs six people in Darlington and six more in her husband's home country of Albania.
She is not surprised that Darlington has made it into the top 10 entrepreneurial locations, commenting:
"The council and community are so supportive, there is a lot happening in the area and a lot of excitement around. A big factor of success here is the people who support our businesses.
There is a lovely homely feel and people love the boutique and bespoke nature of our business. It’s friendly and supportive which makes for a great environment to be happy and grow.
Tenaya Wine, Sheffield
Tenaya Wine began in August 2022, founded by Virginia Myers – who was an assistant winemaker at an urban winery in San Francisco before moving back to Sheffield – and designer Sarah Hatton.
It is a neighbourhood wine shop and bar providing an interesting and accessible range of wines with a focus on female producers and sustainability. Their aim is to bring a taste of California to South Yorkshire with affordable wines between £8 and £15 a bottle.
Starting a business in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis has been nerve wracking but Virginia feels optimistic and is not surprised to see Sheffield identified as a good place to do business, commenting:
“During Covid, it was awful but people still bought wine...the bar and shop feel like a comfortable community place and people are interested in the quality and uniqueness of what we are providing.”
“The city seems very focused on independent businesses. There are not many big chain stores, people seem to want to support small businesses and try new things.”
Chantel and Dave Jenkins run Salumi, a restaurant on Millbay Road in Plymouth which blends British cuisine with Asian and Australian twists. Started seven years ago, they have expanded their premises with a garden and fire kitchen and have been able to capitalise on the increasing desire for al fresco dining.
Chantel believes Plymouth to be a fantastic place to start a business, and particularly an eatery. She explains that:
“There is a huge opportunity to do good food here - it's such a great part of the world, between the moors, the sea and the Tamar Valley. I feel super lucky to have such access to local and quality produce.”
Chantel believes that the Business Improvement District (Plymouth Waterfront BID) has a key part to play in making Plymouth attractive to business, describing them as “hugely supportive and approachable.” She also has big hopes for the city, admiring the "lovely camaraderie between the local businesses".
Alternatively, just pop into their restaurant, located at 18 Millbay Road, Plymouth PL1 3PE.
Business resources available to people in Wolverhampton:
- Black Country Growth Hub: Provides details of new support programmes for businesses in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall or Wolverhampton.
- Invest Wolverhampton: Promoting investment opportunities in Wolverhampton and connecting local businesses with investors.
- City of Wolverhampton Council: Information for businesses within Wolverhampton, including details of business rates, training and opportunities.
Business resources available to people in Worcester:
- Worcester City Council: Provides information regarding local business rates reductions, start-up support and business growth grants.
- Worcestershire Growth Hub: Offers advice, resources and support for the local business community, including advice on international trade, finding funding and business support events.
- Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce: A regional business association providing support, information and advice to its members.
Business resources available to people in Carlisle:
- Carlisle City Council: A hub of business support, including the Carlisle Enterprise Centre and the local Business Start-Up Support scheme.
- Cumbria Chamber of Commerce: A regional business association offering business support, member services, networking and events, as well as political representation.
- Cumbria Business Growth Hub: Focused on sharing ideas and businesses opportunities for entrepreneurs in the region.
Business resources available to people in Hull:
- Hull Chamber of Commerce: An association that lobbies on behalf of local businesses and organises business networking events, exhibitions and business awards.
- Sirius: Sirius offers free advice and business loans for local people setting up a business in the area, or looking to expand an already successful business in Hull and the East Riding Of Yorkshire.
- Marketing Humber: A members association offering materials, events, and media reach.
Business resources available to people in Norwich:
- StartEast: A resource for creative people to develop and grow their businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk.
- Norfolk Chamber of Commerce: An association that aims to provide networking opportunities, knowledge sharing and business advice and support to enterprises in the county.
- New Anglia Growth Hub: Access to small grants, marketing advice and a business innovation fund to support R&D and growth.
- NWES: A not-for-profit enterprise agency providing business support to boost self-employment.
Business resources available to people in Cardiff:
- Invest in Cardiff: An investment organisation providing business support packages aiming to enable investors to support and grow businesses in the city.
- Business Butler: A hub that connects SMEs across the Cardiff Capital Region with business experts.
- Cardiff City Council: A central hub of business support and advice on offer from the local council.
Business resources available to people in Stoke-On-Trent:
- Stoke-On-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub: A fully funded advice, support service, offering investment and strategic leadership to help small and medium sized enterprise in the region.
- Make It: Local business support and investment experts providing a tailor-made service for businesses looking to relocate and expand in the area.
- Stoke-On-Trent and Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership: Enables small and medium-sized businesses to access a wide range of business support and finance.
Business resources available to people in Sheffield:
- Sheffield Chamber of Commerce: Membership organisation that supports, connects and represents businesses of all sizes in Sheffield.
- South Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership: Aims to be a single point of contact for all business support across the South Yorkshire region.
- Sheffield City Council: Advice and resources around licenses, permits, registration, business rates and more.
Business resources available to people in Plymouth:
- Oceansgate: A hub for marine industries, with opportunities for research, innovation and production in a collaborative environment.
- Heart of the South West Growth Hub: Free, impartial advice for growing businesses in the region, as well as details of business support programmes.
- Devon & Plymouth Chamber of Commerce: The leading business support organisation in Devon, offering advice and training opportunities.
Business resources available to people in Southend:
- South East Business Boost: A source of advice and support for businesses across the region, with details of available growth grant funding opportunities.
- Business-on-Sea: An 'Economic Inclusion team' offering business support, skills training, grants and networking opportunities.
- Essex Chamber of Commerce: Advice and support for businesses across the county, along with details of a range of available funding opportunities.
Resources – towns
Business resources available to people in Mansfield:
- Mansfield Business Growth Grant: A maximum grant of £2500 available to some small and medium sized enterprises who have been located in the district of Mansfield for at least six months.
- Mansfield Innovation Centre: A hub designed to support early-stage and growing businesses in Mansfield.
- Mansfield District Council: Details of business support available in Mansfield District, including business rates relief schemes, events and workshops, advice and more.
Blackburn with Darwen
Business resources available to people in Blackburn with Darwen:
- Blackburn and Darwen Borough Council: A partnership between the Borough Council and Growth Lancashire Ltd, aiming to contribute to growing productivity in Lancashire.
- Boost Business Lancashire: Encouraging investment and job creation in Blackburn and Darwen.
- Blackburn Bid: Information on financial support and grants available to businesses in the town and surrounding area.
Business resources available to people in Luton:
- Luton Borough Council: The business hub of the local authority, offering business planning advice and networking opportunities.
- Think Luton: Set up in 2016 to help deliver significant levels of economic growth and investment in Luton.
- Wenta: Provifing free guidance and support in applying for eligible business grants and funding opportunities for Luton Borough residents, as well as business plan reviewing and more.
Business resources available to people in Darlington:
- Business Central Darlington: Support for start-up and existing businesses in Darlington, offering comprehensive, free and confidential packages of advice and assistance.
- Tees Valley Business: Supporting small business owners and budding entrepreneurs with expert advice, support, and access to finance and funding.
- Darlington Business Club: A monthly meeting club offering networking opportunities to like-minded business people in the town.
Business resources available to people in Ipswich:
- New Anglia Growth Hub: Business advice, access to finance, events, links, training, networking and learning to help enterprises grow.
- East Suffolk Council: Business support and advice relating to areas such as training, grants and funding, land and premises, business associations and more.
- University of Suffolk: Provides enterprise skills development opportunities for staff, students, graduates and businesses.
Business resources available to people in Stratford-Upon-Avon:
- Stratford-Upon-Avon District Council: A hub for the local authority, detailing information on business growth, enterprise planning and support opportunities.
- Talk Business: A networking membership organisation that hosts events and experiences to help local businesses and organisations, from all sectors and sizes.
- Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership: A government supported organisation, which offers one-to-one advice and ongoing support to businesses in the region.
Business resources available to people in Maidstone:
- Maidstone Borough Council: Information from the local authority about business rates, licenses and permits, commercial waste, procurement and more.
- Business in Maidstone: The official business support website for Kent’s largest town, designed to provide local businesses with everything they need to thrive.
Business resources available to people in Bridgend:
- Bridgend County Borough Council: The council’s business hub, with details of local funding, business zones, planning and building control, business rates and more.
- Business in Focus: A social enterprise dedicated to supporting new and established businesses.
- Business Wales: A hub of advice and support on finance, marketing, recruitment and business innovation.
Business resources available to people in Maldon:
- Maldon District Council: The local council's hub for businesses, with advice and information related to local business issues.
- Essex Chambers of Commerce: A membership organisation offering business support and advice on subjects such as funding and cybersecurity.
- BEST Growth Hub & Backing Essex Business: Funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to provide a free and impartial signposting service for business support to enterprises in Essex.
Business resources available to people in Scarborough:
- Scarborough Borough Council: The local authority's business information hub with details on licensing, council property, grants and business rates.
- North Yorkshire County Council: Information and trading standards, licenses and permits, funding opportunities and more.
- York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub: Free expertise, support and resources to help your business grow.
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