By Kathy McArdle, CEO, Nottingham’s Creative Quarter
London is celebrated as the business capital of the UK, yet with eye watering rents and unaffordable office spaces, increasing numbers of entrepreneurs are starting to look elsewhere to start their new business.
Here are my top five tips for making the most of the opportunities outside of London.
1. Find the right space for your business
Office space and its associated costs are one of the biggest overheads for any company but luckily when you get beyond working on your laptop in your kitchen there are plenty of options.
Some business centres offer virtual tenancies where you can use their café as high-quality meeting and work-space without having to rent a desk. Co-working space are also great because they’re usually rented out on easy- in easy-out licences with no long-term lease so you don’t get tied into a financial arrangement that has no flexibility.
Later on in your development, you can look at serviced offices which allow you to pay for the space you need on a monthly basis with optional add-ons such as use of meeting rooms. Or you could hot desk, renting a space as and when you need it and in different areas as you see fit. Reduced travel time and cost also makes this much more achievable outside London - in many cities, the hard work of social enterprises means you can get a desk space from as little as £50 a month.
2. Take advantage of the resources available
Finance and high-quality support are crucial in the early years of any business but both can be difficult to access in a city the size of London. Now that cities across the UK are increasingly investing significant sums of money into ambitious business and enterprise plans, those necessary resources are readily available country-wide.
The result: a range of opportunities for businesses to get effective and immediate help. Look out for accelerator and incubation programmes offering generous grants and exceptional support in your area. In Nottingham, the unique Next Business Generation accelerator programme has helped to launch 45 new companies in life sciences, cleanTech and the digital/tech sectors in the last two years. But across the UK the Growth Accelerator programme has supported thousands of companies to grow their business with the support of great coaches.
3. Build a network
When it comes to starting a business, often it’s who you know, not just what you know that counts. Whilst it might seem logical to think these opportunities decrease when you move to a smaller city, the reality is quite the opposite.
Starting a business in a smaller city means like-minded people are much easier to find and to meet. What’s more, as creative, technical and scientific industries often work in the same area or even the same building, you end up meeting people you might otherwise not. Who knows where that conversation might lead?
Establishing a network early in your company’s life is essential and whilst networking events can be a bit hit and miss it is well worth spending the time to find one you like as the relationships you build can pay dividends in the long-term. There’s an extraordinary selection of tech meetups, business breakfasts, expos, network meetings and knowledge-sharing events out there so make sure you take advantage of these.
4. Utilise local talent
Make no mistake, young talent is nationwide and it is worth harnessing it at the earliest opportunity to not only get some support in growing your company, but also giving others a chance to develop their own skills in the process.
Look at the national Santander-funded Internships programme run through the Universities. We have seen many small benefits for businesses who have taken on an intern to do a specific piece of research or marketing work that often it is difficult to find time for in the early stages.
What’s more, many young people now want to take an entrepreneurial pathway rather than going to University — you could give them their first foothold on the career ladder and grow your business with them.
5. Choose wisely
One last piece of advice — there’s no point in going to a city you don’t like just to start a business. Go because a) your friends are there; b) you went to University there; c) you already have networks there; d) you have researched their ‘offer’ for small businesses and you like what you see; e)they have a great music scene; f) you love the vibe of the city and its culture… You will be the driving force behind your business and the happier and more settled you are, the greater the likelihood of success.