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Where Was The Best Place To Start A Small Business In The 2010s?

Over the past two weeks, Informi has been looking back at each year in the 2010s to reminisce about major events both nationally and in business – while also discovering which UK town or city had the most favourable conditions to set up a new business during each year.

Today, we bring all of the results together to reveal which place was the best across the whole decade to start a business. Informi has focused on the 63 largest towns and cities in the UK, judging them on the following seven factors in each year since 2010:

  • Annual business start-ups
  • Annual business closures
  • Total business stock
  • Proportion of population with an NVQ level 4 qualification or above
  • Housing affordability
  • Pollution rate
  • Overall employment rate

And today we can reveal that the Berkshire town of Reading has taken the crown, having the best conditions for starting a business between 2010 and now.

Scroll down to the bottom of the blog to see how your town or city compares. 


Reading beats Brighton and Northampton to the title

Reading failed to top the list in any single year since 2010, but the town never fell out of the top six when focusing on the above seven criteria, and it finished second in four consecutive years (2013-16). Reading consistently performed well in the number of start-ups each year, access to highly skilled workers, and its overall business stock.

Indeed in 2017, the last figures that are publicly available, Reading boasted 477.8 businesses per 10,000 population. Although this is significantly behind London’s 583, it beats every other major town and city in the UK.

And there’s plenty of opportunity for small businesses in Reading to grow to be major powerhouses of the future. Microsoft, P&G, and Oracle are among the major international brands who have their UK hub in Reading, and the town was named in the Top 25 European Cities and Regions of the Future 2018/19, according to the Financial Times. Only London and Cambridge represent the UK aside from Reading. The arrival of Crossrail, the new underground railway connecting London with Essex to the East and Berkshire to the West, will also be a major boost to the local economy. 

Sue Brackley, economics development manager for Reading UK CIC, explained that Reading is ‘compelling’ for both businesses and investors.

“We have a really balanced economy, with a lot of sectors doing well across the local area, and a very mature business eco-system,” said Sue.

“Many of our start-ups support, and are supported by, mature, larger, businesses in Reading.”

And individuals themselves can benefit from working in the area – with average weekly workplace earnings in 2018 standing at £671. Only London and Slough can top that figure. 

“Small artisanal businesses also do really well in Reading,” Sue adds, “as people are happy to spend disposable income on quality food and drink offers.”


Where else performed well?

Brighton, which has often topped our Best Places list on an annual basis,  came second in the decade study, with Northampton in third.

London took fourth spot, being held back by high business closure figures and ranking poorly for the ratio of house prices to average wages. Other areas to have appeared in the top ten include Scottish cities Edinburgh and Aberdeen, along with seaside resorts Bournemouth and Worthing.



The Top 20 Best Places To Start A Small Business In The 2010s


  UK town/city
1. Reading
2. Brighton
3. Northampton
4. London
5. Bournemouth
6. Edinburgh
7. Aberdeen
8. Cambridge
9. Bristol
10. Worthing
11. Warrington
12. York
13. Aldershot
14. Milton Keynes
15. Exeter
16. Oxford
17. Gloucester
18. Southampton
19. Portsmouth
20. Ipswich


“Entrepreneurial spirit is higher than ever before” – the view from Informi

 Steven Drew, Informi product manager, said about the study:

“The number of businesses in the UK has grown steadily over the past decade – up from around 4.5 million in 2010 to 5.7 million in 2018, which is around record high levels. With well over 99% of all businesses qualifying as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it is clear that the entrepreneurial spirit in our country is higher than ever before – and our leading towns and cities are helping to facilitate this.

“As the UK enters a new decade on the verge of exiting the European Union, its future economic success will ever more rely on our small businesses providing the goods and services that consumers need, both here and abroad. It is vital therefore that areas copy the example set by the likes of Reading and Brighton in creating the right environment for small firms to survive and thrive.”



For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook.

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