Our search has so nearly reached its climax. Taking in well-established small business hubs such as London, Bristol and Cambridge, and adding some arguably surprising locations including Aldershot, Warrington and Reading, the Best Place To Start A Small Business In The UK 2018 has studied 63 towns and cities the length and breadth of the country to see where market conditions are best for budding entrepreneurs.
Tomorrow we will reveal who has made the top spot. Previous winners Brighton and Ipswich haven’t yet appeared in our top ten, so will one of those locations triumph this time around, or will there be a new name on the crown?
Firstly, we can reveal that the Scottish capital Edinburgh has finished in the runner-up position.
Aside from London (which Edinburgh finished two places ahead of in our study), the capital of Scotland has the strongest economy of any city in the UK – and regularly scores highly in the Centre for International Competitiveness’ triennial Competitiveness Index. In addition, it attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, not least during August when the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the more popular Festival Fringe events are running.
It was the third highest ranked place for the proportion of highly skilled workers, with 59.2% of the working-age population holding a qualification at least that of an NVQ Level 4. Only the university powerhouses of Cambridge and Oxford boast better figures then that – and indeed Edinburgh is just 2% behind Oxford, while it lies 6% ahead of next best location Aberdeen.
Edinburgh scored moderately well for digital connectivity (15th of the 63 towns and cities studied), business stock (17th, with 358 businesses per 10,000 population) and the number of recent startups (20th).
At the risk of sounding like a broken record from previous blogs, Edinburgh’s housing affordability will prove a struggle to some wishing to keep their costs for their business rather than for somewhere to live – or indeed if they are looking for premises in which to start and grow their company.
Edinburgh’s ranking of 39th on this particular scale isn’t too bad, however, in fact of all the top ten places to start a small business, only Northampton and Warrington perform better in this category.
The Scottish capital had a large number of businesses close during 2016 – its 57 per 10,000 population was lower than only six other locations – while its business churn rate (the rate at which new businesses open versus those that close) between 2013-16 was -5.66%, with only Northampton and Aberdeen scoring worse.
Drinkly is an Edinburgh-based start-up that promises to deliver the best locally crafted beers, wines and spirits to customers’ doors within an hour. John Robertson is their founder and CEO.
"Edinburgh is a relatively small city, so you seem to bump into people that you know all the time," says John.
"In the startup world this is amplified because there’s a tight network of events which you can attend in order to meet inspiring people with great aspirations. All are well connected, and most are willing to support each other in a collaborative way.
"It’s great to have such an ecosystem in place of founders at all stage of business. They come with views and opinions which help to make well-informed decisions. However, if we could move Silicon Valley slightly closer, that would be a bonus, and if all businesses in Edinburgh offered staff Friday drinks with Drinkly, talent would flock!"
Tomorrow is the big reveal date when we discover who has taken the top spot in 2018’s Best Places search. Will a large city or smaller town triumph? All will be revealed…
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