In the past couple of years, the UK’s economic climate has proved to be a nurturing environment for small and startup businesses, with a record-breaking number of new businesses getting off the ground in 2014.
There are certain regions of the country that are typically recognised as small business ‘hubs’ – such as Birmingham, Greater London and Brighton – but one location often overlooked is Leicester, one of the biggest cities in the Midlands.
There are a number of reasons why Leicester is one of the best places to start a business in the UK, from the types of industries that flourish there to the small business support available. Let's take a closer look at the opportunities available and why businesses have already enjoyed impressive success in the city.
You need only take one look at the prosperity of Leicester’s current startup population to see that small businesses are alive and well in the city. Over the past decade, the number of new startups in Leicester each year has increased by 57%, and the number of closures has dropped significantly. There are currently over 10,000 active small businesses in the city, and Leicestershire boasts an impressive business survival rate of almost 60%.
When surveyed, over half of Leicester’s small business owners reported increasing sales turnover and profit in the past twelve months, and an astounding 75% expect to continue that trend in the next twelve, too.
The three largest industries in Leicester are manufacturing, retail and motor vehicle repair. The presence of these leading industries means that the city makes an important contribution to the wider UK economy – which in turn supports the wellbeing of all of Leicester’s small businesses.
One in nine of those employed in Leicester works in the manufacturing industry, which has seen nationwide uplift in recent years. The UK is currently the 11th largest manufacturing country in the world, meaning that Leicester is providing support to one of the UK’s most vital industries.
The same is true of retail – which contributes over £17.5 million worth of taxes nationwide each year – and motor vehicle repair – an industry that is dominated by small businesses across the country. The significant presence of these industries in Leicester’s business communities helps to create a mutually beneficial relationship between the city and the wider UK economy that should flourish for years to come.
There is a wide variety of support available for small and startup businesses in Leicester – from helping entrepreneurs get startups off the ground to giving established businesses support to scale and grow. This support comes in many different forms, including:
Grants and funding A number of financing options are available from both local council loan schemes and independent bodies such as The Leicester Business Gateway. 94% of Leicester business owners are happy about the access to finance available to them, clearly showing the level of financial support that is there for those who need it.
Training opportunities Training and apprenticeship schemes help staff and businesses to develop together. Many Leicester businesses make the most of this, with one in seven currently employing apprenticeship staff. There are also two universities in Leicester, as well as a college, and three quarters of small business owners state that it’s easy to find training opportunities.
Skilled workers Schemes such as the Prince’s Trust Talent Match Programme – as well as the numerous job fairs help in the city – help to connect small business owners with talented workers. In fact, only 6% of business owners are concerned about a shortage of skilled staff.
Statistics show that 44% of the UK’s small business owners actively seek external advice for matters regarding their firms, and Leicester is certainly well equipped to deal with these concerns - as well as provide its small businesses with the resource, funding and knowledge needed for success.
Leicester’s geographical location also lends itself to small business success. It is virtually in the centre of the UK with access to M1 and M69 motorways, making it easily accessible for visiting trade - as well as ideal for Leicester business owners to expand to other locations. The East Midlands airport is less than 30 minutes away, which means that Leicester is also an idea location for those interested in export trade.
As you can see, there are many perks to starting a business in Leicester, and a range of factors which contribute to Leicester’s businesses’ success. In fact, small businesses are thriving so much in Leicester that 13% of existing business owners there expressed concern about competition in the market. This suggests that more and more Leicester businesses are growing to be in strong, competitive positions – further testament to Leicester and its ability to sustain and nurture a successful small business community.
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