Skip to main content
5 min read

Hustle Capitals of the UK

While the UK’s business sector has seen some recovery since the Covid-19 pandemic, the country is yet to see any signs of a post-pandemic business boom. In most regions, the number of businesses opened since 2020 have decreased, as has the total number of people registered as self-employed. 

That’s not down to a lack of entrepreneurship or smart and useful business ideas. Economic uncertainty and reduced consumer spending in the wake of the cost of living crisis has made starting a business much more challenging than before, as have supply chain disruptions and rising operating costs. After a rocky few years, it’s no surprise people are seeking financial stability. 

With that being said, there are some regions that have bounced back, and others aren’t far behind. We looked at data from the Office of National Statistics for self employment rates, private sector start up registrations, and business growth rates to reveal which regions are the biggest hustlers.

Hustle Capitals of the UK by Region



Self Employment Rates

Private Sector Businesses Started

Business Growth Rate







Northern Ireland





South West










North East





West Midlands





East Midlands





Yorkshire and The Humber





East of England





South East





North West









Wales takes first place in hustle capitals of the UK, displaying a huge (relatively speaking) 5.2% increase in the number of private sector businesses starting from 2021 to 2022. Alongside self employment rates at 15.9% of the working population, Wales also showed a business growth rate of 0.9%.

In second place for the biggest hustlers, Northern Ireland had a 3.5% increase in new businesses, and 13.3% of the working population being registered as self-employed.

The South West comes out top for English regions, and third place overall for Hustle Capitals, with the most impressive statistic being nearly 20% of the working population in self-employment in early 2022.

Regions with the Most People Registered as Self-Employed


South West

The South West has the highest proportion of self-employed workers, with 18.8% of all workers in the region registered as self-employed. In fact, the South West was the only place to see an increase in the number of self-employed people in the past year, despite the overall UK figure declining. 

There’s a number of options available for those looking for support when going self-employed in this region, including the Start and Grow Enterprise Start Programme or the free Kick Off in Business course, which offer budding freelancers advice on how to write a business plan, measure their profitability, and nail an elevator pitch.  

South East 

The South East comes in at number two, with 16.5% of workers registered as self employed. Through Business South, self-employed people in the South East can access funding and loans of up to £25,000 per co-founder. Free business advice is also available for self-employed people and small businesses in Woking, via the council. People based in Berkshire could also receive up to £500,000 worth of debt funds if they meet certain criteria. 


Coming fourth with 15.9% of the working population registered as self employed, the Welsh government’s small business service, Business Wales, also offers advice, training, and networking support for those looking to grow their businesses. Creative Wales is one of many organisations providing funding and support for self employed individuals in Wales. 

East of England 

Some 15.2% of the East’s working population is registered as self-employed, with this region having the third most self-employed workers in the country. Self-employed people and business owners in the East of England can access loans via Let’s Do Business or free business advice via Nwes.

Most Entrepreneurial Regions, By New Businesses Registered


Wales saw a 5.2% increase in the number of new businesses, with several programs available to support entrepreneurs. The Welsh government offers start-up loans of up to £25,000, as well as free advice and training through Business Wales. Additionally, small businesses in Wales can benefit from reduced rates through the Micro-business Relief scheme.

Northern Ireland

This region saw a slight increase in the number of new businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic (3.5%). The Northern Ireland Executive has implemented various initiatives to support entrepreneurs, including Invest NI’s Propel programme which provides training, mentorship, and funding opportunities for start-ups. The Social Enterprise NI Growth Fund provides support to social enterprises and community groups, while the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund offers loans of up to £100,000 for small and medium-sized enterprises. 

South West

In England, The South West saw the biggest post-pandemic recovery boom of all nine regions, with 15,170 businesses opening since 2021 (an increase of 2.3%), despite seeing a fall in 2020. There is a range of support and advice for those looking to start a business in the South West, including the free Business West start-up support package, available to those in Somerset, and the SWIG Finance start-up loan, available across all of the South West.   

North East

The North East was one of only three English regions that saw an increase in businesses since the end of the pandemic, with almost 800 new businesses opening (0.5% increase). The Northern Accelerator offers grants to bring academics and business leaders together to form sustainable businesses. Social entrepreneurs are able to apply for grants of up to £5,000 to start a new social enterprise, via Unltd Awards. Prospective business owners can also access advice and training through North East Ambition.

East Midlands

The East Midlands also saw an increase in new businesses since the start of the pandemic, with nearly 600 start-ups opened in the region since 2021. The Prince’s Trust offers funding of up to £5,000 for young people in the East Midlands (and the rest of the UK) with a viable business idea. There’s also the Wenta start-up programme for prospective business owners in the South East Midlands. Social enterprises in the region can also receive advice and funding via Key Funds.

Business Growth Rates by Region

North East

The North East saw a modest growth of 1% between 2020 and 2022. The region offers a number of funding options to develop a business, including The Northern Accelerator which offers grants to bring academics and business leaders together to form sustainable businesses. Social entrepreneurs are able to apply for grants of up to £5,000 to start a new social enterprise via Unltd Awards

West Midlands

Similarly, The West Midlands saw an increase of just 1% business growth. There are various support programs available for entrepreneurs in the region, including the Midlands Engine Investment Fund which offers loans of up to £2 million to small businesses in the West Midlands. The Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme also provides free advice and funding to start-ups in the region.


Wales experienced a 0.9% increase in business growth. The Welsh government provides a range of support options for entrepreneurs, including start-up loans of up to £25,000 and free advice and training through Business Wales. 

Yorkshire and The Humber

Yorkshire and The Humber saw a growth of 0.9% between 2020 and 2022. There is a variety of support and funding options available for people looking to start or grow their business in Yorkshire. Specifically, businesses based in or looking to relocate to the Leeds City Region can apply for grants of between £10,000 and £50,000. Small businesses looking to start up or relocate in Scarborough can also receive grants of between £1,000 and £5,000.


While the past three years haven’t been fertile ground for budding businesses and entrepreneurs, multiple regions across the country have proved themselves as viable places for entrepreneurship and growth. With a range of grants, loans and business support across all regions, starting a business doesn’t have to be a solo venture. 

The South West, North East, and the East were the three top hustle capitals of England, all factors considered, being pipped for the UK top spots by Wales and Northern Ireland. These were the regions that saw ample growth and self-employment rates post-pandemic. 

The North East and East Midlands were two of just three English regions (including the South West) that saw new businesses opening in the past three years, with other regions slowly recovering from the pandemic. 



Self employment statistics were collected from “Understanding changes in self-employment in the UK: January 2019 to March 2022” published by the Office for National Statistics”. This factor was ranked based on the number of people registered as self-employed to the number of working people in a region on the whole.

The number of new businesses were found by tracking the number of businesses in each region in 2021 and 2022, using data from the “Business Population Estimates for the UK & Regions” from the Office for National Statistics. 

Growth Rates were obtained from “UK business; activity, size and location: 2022” Office for National Statistics Release. 

Share this content

Leave a Reply

Register with Informi today:

  • Join over 30,000 like-minded business professionals.
  • Create your own personalised account with curated reading lists and checklists.
  • Access exclusive resources including business plans, templates, and tax calculators.
  • Receive the latest business advice and insights from Informi.
  • Join in the discussion through the comments section.