best city to start a business uk london

At UENI we work alongside some of the best business people in the UK. This means we can sound them out on the things that really matter and glean some special insights into what’s going on in the business world.

Whether you’re starting a business from scratch or looking to expand, deciding where to base yourself is a vital foundation for any profitable operation. This month we tapped into this expert pool of knowledge to determine the best city to start a UK business. In what follows, we’ll identify some lesser-known locations that can offer something different.

Wherever you choose to run your business, UENI can help you to let people know about it. With our expert knowledge of online search and our creative team of web designers and content writers, we can build you the perfect website that to get noticed by people in your local area.

Best city to start a business UK: the results

We conducted a survey of over 1000 business owners to determine the best city to start a UK business, also asking respondents to identify the main reason behind their answer. Ranging from doctors to graphic designers, our survey established a range of common location factors that people consider when opening a business: access to funding, customer base, proximity to resources, affordability of premises and local taxes.

 Coming from across the UK, our business owners rated London (56%), Manchester (10.5%), Birmingham (5%), Liverpool (3%) and Glasgow (2.5%) as their top five locations to open a business.

Here’s our website owners’ definitive ranking of the best city to start a UK business:

1. London

2. Manchester

3. Birmingham

4. Liverpool

5. Glasgow

6. Leeds

7. Bristol

8. Newcastle

9. Leicester

10. Brighton

11. Cardiff

12. Norwich

13. Edinburgh

14. Belfast

15. Milton Keynes

16. Cambridge

17. Oxford

18. Sheffield

19. Swansea

20. York

21. Bradford

22. Portsmouth

23. Preston

24. Hull

25. Great Yarmouth

Hotspots to head for

As well as asking respondents which location was the best city to start a UK business, we also asked why, taking account of the following factors: funding, customers, resources, offices and taxes.

The responses we gathered were pretty revealing and we’ve consequently been able to shine light on some hidden hotspots you can think about choosing for your business depending on your priorities.

Best city to start a business UK: location factors

RankingFundingCustomersResourcesOfficesTaxes
1LondonLondonLondonLondonLondon
2ManchesterManchesterManchesterManchesterManchester
3BirminghamBirminghamBirminghamBirminghamBirmingham and Leeds
4 Bristol LiverpoolLiverpool and LeedsGlasgow and LeedsGlasgow
5 Leeds Glasgow   
Hotspot Bristol Brighton Leeds LeicesterManchester

Best city to start a UK business: hotspots for funding

1. London

2. Manchester

3. Birmingham

4. Bristol

5. Leeds

Funding hotspot: Bristol

best city to start a business uk bristol

It’s no surprise to see Bristol making the grade. Nowadays there’s a lot of tech money sailing into the former port city. But it’s not only high tech operations that are taking advantage of the city’s funding opportunities and strong pool of graduate talent. In Banksy’s home city, there’s a real appetite for independent business and fresh ideas. From social enterprise to designer Belgian fries, the constant stream of Londoners relocating to Bristol (73 every week according to the local paper) provides a great customer base as well. 

Best city to start a UK business: hotspots for customers

1. London

2. Manchester

3. Birmingham

4. Liverpool

5. Glasgow

Customer hotspot: Brighton

Brightonians are renowned as the UK’s most prolific coffee drinkers. One survey suggested the average resident spends an annual £177 on the stuff, the highest figure in the UK, which is likely to have grown further since. This fact alone shows that there’s a lot of disposable income in the locality. And people in this vibrant city value independent business, high-quality brands and a twist on a classic. 

Best city to start a UK business: hotspots for resources

1. London

2. Manchester

3. Birmingham

4. Liverpool and Leeds (equal)

Resource hotspot: Leeds

best city to start a business uk leeds

Talent, an expansive customer pool and a lot of infrastructure: Leeds has it all. With a workforce of 1.4 million people, a combined population of 3 million and a £64.6 billion local economy, this city is drawing in a lot of small businesses and startups. While finance and business services account for most activity in the city, there are also clear niches for retail, leisure, creative industries and businesses in the digital sphere. One early signal of Leeds’ rising stock was Channel 4’s announcement that it would relocate its headquarters to the city last year.

Best city to start a UK business: hotspots for offices

1. London

2. Manchester

3. Birmingham

4. Glasgow and Leeds (equal)

Affordable office hotspot: Leicester

best city to start a business uk leicester

Leicester’s star is rising. This once-overlooked small business hub now boasts an impressive business survival rate of nearly 60%, which is among the highest in the UK. One reason it’s become so attractive to small business owners is that property is comparatively inexpensive to buy and rent for such a well-connected city. Not to mention a decent amount of regional investment, solid local financing options and a strong pool of talent (from skilled workers to training apprentices). 

Best city to start a UK business: hotspots for taxes

1. London

2. Manchester

3. Birmingham and Leeds (equal)

4. Glasgow

Cheap tax hotspot: Manchester

best city to start a business uk manchester

This Northern Powerhouse has been renowned for its low tax regime over the years. Its low operating costs have drawn in some major international players: Amazon, Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens and Microsoft all have regional offices in the city. With a massive population, impressive transport connectivity and a strong tech infrastructure, there are lots of other reasons to set up shop here as well. It’s a forward-looking city. Manchester aims to be the UK’s number one digital city by 2030 and its Metro Mayor, Andy Burnham has committed the city to greening its transit and economy in the future.

Think outside the big business bubbles

The headline is that the capital city keeps its crown as the first choice of more than half of business owners throughout the UK, trailed by the other big cities. But the competition is always going to be more serious in these locations.

If you can identify your priorities as a business, you can be strategic about where you decide to go. When it comes to choosing the best city to start a UK business, the real take home is that there’s a plethora of reasons to think outside the bubble of the bigger cities.

And if you really want to broaden your horizons, think globally. Why not consider taking your business international with our survey of the World’s Best Business Locations?

Ollie Collard
Ollie Collard
Ollie is an experienced B2B copywriter with a commitment to creating clever copy and providing actionable advice on digital media for small businesses.

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