The UK's most entrepreneurial towns and cities 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.

Pinpoints: Methodology

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!

Read on for more insights on why these places are driving entrepreneurism, where they can improve and some of the challenges facing small business owners - as well as access to local resources!

The UK's top 10 most entrepreneurial towns and cities

Cities Towns
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.

most influential factor

common themes

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.

Business case studies

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.

Find more information about House of Zana via their website, Instagram, Facebook or email them at info@houseofzana.uk

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.”

Salumi, Plymouth

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".

Find more information about Salumi via their website, Instagram, Facebook or email them at hello@eatsalumi.co.uk

Alternatively, just pop into their restaurant, located at 18 Millbay Road, Plymouth PL1 3PE.

Resources – cities

Discover some useful resources for entrepreneurs to get started for each of the top 10 cities in our list.

Wolverhampton

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.

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Worcester

Business resources available to people in Worcester:

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Carlisle

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.

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Hull

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.

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Norwich

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.

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Cardiff

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.

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Stoke-On-Trent

Business resources available to people in Stoke-On-Trent:

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Sheffield

Business resources available to people in Sheffield:

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Plymouth

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.

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Southend

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.

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Resources – towns

Mansfield

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.

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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.

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Luton

Business resources available to people in Luton:

  • Chesterfield Borough Council: Providing advice and information to entrepreneurs looking to start a business as well as further support to existing businesses.
  • Chesterfield Chamber: With more than 600 members across a variety of industries and representing over 25,000 employees, the Chamber provides essential business support to businesses situated in Chesterfield.
  • Chesterfield Business: Detailing opportunities and programmes for new and existing local businesses.

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Darlington

Business resources available to people in Darlington:

  • Chorley Council: Provides information around business support funding and events, grants, employment support and available business sites.
  • Unique Ladies Business Networking Chorley: Established to provide network opportunities for female entrepreneurs
  • Choose Chorley for Business: Providing guidance and support to existing businesses, start-ups, as well as those looking to relocate their organisation to Chorley.

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Ipswich

Business resources available to people in Ipswich:

  • Maidstone Borough Council: Delivering essential information and guidance to businesses in Maidstone.
  • Business in Maidstone: Working alongside a range of organisations, Business in Maidstone offers unlimited business support to entrepreneurs or business owners relating to starting a business, legal advice and more.
  • Maidstone Business Networking: Promotes network opportunities for business owners in Maidstone.

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Stratford-Upon-Avon

Business resources available to people in Stratford-Upon-Avon:

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Maidstone

Business resources available to people in Maidstone:

  • Oldham Council: For businesses who wish to gain additional support and guidance in starting or growing an existing business.
  • Oldham Business Network: An online network for businesses in the local community

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Bridgend

Business resources available to people in Bridgend:

  • Enterprising Barnsley: The council’s economic arm which provides support to those who wish to invest or move to Barnsley, as well as start-ups and existing businesses who wish to grow in the area.
  • Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber: Providing essential business support, training events and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs and business owners in Barnsley and Rotherham.

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Maldon

Business resources available to people in Maldon:

  • Blackpool Council: Offering key business support and advice to businesses in Blackpool, covering business rates, permits, funding and more.
  • Blackpool Unlimited: Enabling businesses to thrive with essential information and guidance for new and existing businesses.
  • BOOST Lancashire's Business Growth Hub: Operated by Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), the hub has sought to support Lancashire businesses grow with a range of funded programmes and mentoring and network opportunities.

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Scarborough

Business resources available to people in Scarborough:

  • 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.

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