The 12 Best Cities in the UK to Start a Business

Last Updated: 

March 27, 2023

If you're considering starting a business, the UK is a great place to start. It's home to numerous cities with thriving economies and entrepreneurial communities. Here are 12 of our favorite places in the UK for starting a new venture:

Key takeaways on UK cities to start a business in

  1. London: London is a thriving hub for businesses of all kinds, with a diverse range of industries and a large pool of potential customers and investors. However, living costs can be high.
  2. Manchester: Manchester has a growing reputation as a hub for tech and digital businesses, with a strong entrepreneurial community and a lower cost of living than London.
  3. Bristol: Bristol has a thriving creative and digital sector, with many opportunities for businesses in industries like design, media, and marketing.
  4. Birmingham: Birmingham is a major city with a diverse economy and a growing reputation as a hub for startups, particularly in the tech and digital sectors.
  5. Glasgow: Glasgow is a dynamic city with a strong creative and cultural scene, and a growing reputation as a hub for tech and digital businesses.
  6. Edinburgh: Edinburgh is a vibrant city with a strong entrepreneurial community, particularly in the tech and creative sectors.
  7. Brighton: Brighton is a popular destination for startups due to its vibrant arts and creative scene, and its proximity to London.
  8. Leeds: Leeds has a strong and growing economy, with opportunities for startups in industries like tech, finance, and retail.
  9. Liverpool: Liverpool has a rich history as a hub for trade and commerce, and today is home to a diverse range of businesses in sectors like digital, creative, and life sciences.
  10. Sheffield: Sheffield has a growing reputation as a hub for startups in sectors like advanced manufacturing, engineering, and healthtech.
  11. Cardiff: Cardiff is the capital of Wales, with a vibrant startup scene and a growing reputation as a hub for tech and creative businesses.
  12. Cambridge: Cambridge is a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, with a strong focus on tech and life sciences startups.

By considering these cities, startups can tap into a diverse range of opportunities, support networks, and resources to help them grow and succeed in the UK market.

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London 

London is a major global city with a diverse economy, offering opportunities for startups in industries like tech, finance and retail. The capital's economy has been growing steadily since the financial crisis, with GDP growth of 2% in 2018 and it's expected to continue rising through 2021.

London also has a strong creative and digital sector that supports entrepreneurship: there are more than 575 accelerators or incubators across the city, plus lots of coworking spaces where you can work alongside other entrepreneurs (or even find one yourself). 

And when you're ready to take your business out into the world? You'll find plenty of support from mentors through programs like Startupbootcamp Fintech London Accelerator - which offers mentoring from investors who have backed over 500 startups worth $50 billion combined!

Manchester 

Manchester has a growing reputation as a hub for tech and digital businesses. The city is home to more than 1,000 tech companies, including big names like Man Group, the world's largest listed hedge fund manager, and Zendesk (a software company that helps businesses manage customer relationships).

Manchester also hosts one of Europe's largest technology conferences every year TechFest  which attracts over 4,000 attendees from around the world. The event showcases some of the most exciting innovations in digital technology with speakers such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of HTML), Professor Stephen Hawking (physicist) and Sir Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Galactic).

Bristol 

Bristol is a major city with a diverse economy and a growing reputation as a hub for startups. Bristol has been named as one of the UK's most dynamic cities, thanks to its thriving creative and digital sector.

The city also has an excellent transport system, which makes it easy for businesses to expand into new markets or take advantage of opportunities elsewhere in the country.

Birmingham 

Birmingham is a major city with a diverse economy and a growing reputation as a hub for startups. The second largest city in the UK, Birmingham has become known as one of Europe's leading tech and digital business centres.

Birmingham has been home to some big names in recent years, including online retailer ASOS and online gambling site Betfair (which was founded by two former University of Birmingham students). And it's not just big businesses that have chosen to set up shop here: there are now more than 1,000 technology companies based in the area - including many startups looking for their first office space or funding round.

Glasgow 

Glasgow is a dynamic city with a strong creative and cultural scene. It's also home to some of the best startups in the UK, including Skyscanner, which was founded in 2001 and has grown into one of Europe's largest travel websites.

The city's startup ecosystem has been growing steadily over recent years, thanks to initiatives like CodeBase a collaborative workspace for tech companies and its thriving arts scene (Glasgow was recently named European Capital of Culture 2021).

Edinburgh 

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and one of the most popular destinations in the UK. It has a population of just over 500,000 people, but attracts millions more each year for its famous festivals and events.

Edinburgh's startup scene is thriving thanks to a strong entrepreneurial community that offers plenty of opportunities for new businesses to get started or expand their operations.

Brighton 

Brighton is a popular destination for startups because of its vibrant arts scene. The city attracts creative types from all over the world, and it has a strong tech sector as well.

If you're an entrepreneur looking to start up in Brighton, here are some of our favorite places to work:

  • Co-working spaces like WorkBrighton allow you to rent out desk space at flexible rates so that you can test out your business idea before committing fully. You'll be surrounded by other entrepreneurs who can give advice and support on everything from marketing strategies to funding options. Plus, there are plenty of events happening throughout the week where you can network with potential customers or investors!

Leeds 

Leeds is the UK's third largest city, but despite its size it has a growing reputation as a hub for startups. The city has attracted major companies like Asda and Deloitte and Lloyds Banking Group, which means there are plenty of opportunities for startups in industries such as tech, finance, and retail.

Liverpool 

Liverpool is the UK's second largest city, and has a rich history as a hub for trade and commerce. It's also home to the Cavern Club the birthplace of the Beatles. In addition to its thriving startup community, Liverpool has been named one of Europe's top 15 digital cities by Cisco Systems.

Sheffield 

Sheffield has a strong and growing economy, with a high concentration of advanced manufacturing companies. It is home to the UK's first ever Enterprise Zone, which offers tax breaks and other incentives for businesses looking to invest in the area.

The city has also developed a reputation as an innovation hub; its universities are leading research centres in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology. Sheffield was recently named by Wired magazine as one of Europe's top five cities for tech startups (alongside London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona).

Sheffield has long been known for its creative industries: from cutlery manufacturers like Thomas Turner & Sons Ltd (established 1780) through to more recent ventures like Warp Films - producers of films such as This Is England 88%

Cardiff 

Cardiff is the capital of Wales, and it's also known for its vibrant startup scene. The city has a growing reputation as a hub for startups, with many young companies moving there to take advantage of its affordable office space and talent pool.

In addition to being just over three hours from London by train (or about an hour by plane), Cardiff boasts some excellent universities including Cardiff University, which was ranked number one in Wales by The Complete University Guide 2019 that provide plenty of opportunities for students looking to gain experience while they're still in school.

Cambridge 

Cambridge is a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. The city's reputation as a startup hub has grown steadily over the years, with several startups moving there from London due to its lower cost of living and thriving entrepreneurial community.

In addition to having a strong reputation as an incubator for new businesses, Cambridge also has a growing economy with opportunities for startups in industries like tech, finance, and retail notably Amazon's headquarters at King's Parade which opened earlier this year.

These cities are great places to start a business

London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow are the most popular cities for startups. The UK has some of the best business environments in Europe and it's no surprise that many people want to start their own companies here.

London is by far the most popular city for starting a business with over 200 startups per 100k residents. It also has one of Europe's highest rates of entrepreneurship with almost half (47%) of all new businesses being founded by first-time entrepreneurs who have never owned an unincorporated company before or run a limited liability partnership (LLP).

FAQs on starting a business in the UK

If you're thinking about opening a business, there are so many things to consider. From location to infrastructure, from expenses to taxes even something as simple as the day of the week you choose for your big launch can make a difference in how your business performs. That's why we put together this list of places that is sure to appeal to any entrepreneur.

How to find a good location when starting a business?

Location is an important factor to consider when starting a business. The location you choose will determine how accessible your business is and also how easy it is for potential customers to find, which can make or break your success.

If possible, try not to choose a location that's too far away from public transport as this could discourage people who don't have cars from visiting your store or office. A central location will also give visitors easy access all around town without having to travel too far out of the way.

What are the factors to consider when opening a physical store?

  • Location
  • Size
  • Rent
  • Cost of stock
  • Staffing costs (including salaries, bonuses and benefits)
  • Customer parking availability. Will you need to provide parking? Is there enough space in your location to accommodate it? If not, how will customers find a place to park when they visit your store? Can they easily access public transportation nearby that can take them directly to the mall or shopping center where you're located?
  • Security: How secure is your business's physical location going to be at night when no one is around? Do employees have access cards and cameras installed throughout the building so that staff can monitor who comes in and out throughout the night (and if so, how often do these systems need updating)?

How can my business appear on google maps?

If you want to appear on Google Maps, the first step is to create a free listing for your business. You can do this by visiting Google My Business and signing in with your Gmail account or creating one if necessary.

Once you have created a business listing, there are several ways that you can optimise it for local search results:

  • Add photos of your products/services
  • Add video testimonials from satisfied customers (if possible)

Conclusion

The UK is a great place to start a business. If you're looking for somewhere to set up shop, these cities offer a wealth of opportunities in industries like tech, finance and retail.

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