By Daniel Hunter

Entrepreneurs in the North are capitalising on the biggest opportunities for growth in the UK, an EY study has shown.

Entrepreneur-led companies in the North of England achieved 24% growth in turnover in the past year beating their counterparts in London and South (19%), Scotland (17.1%) and the Midlands (12%), according to an analysis of 128 fast-growing businesses interviewed.

The figures supplied by finalists in EY’s Entrepreneur Of the Year, split evenly across the UK, found business leaders in the North are also the most optimistic about the economy, with 83% expecting a significant turnaround. This compared to Scotland (43%) London and South (36%) and Midlands (30%) — though all expected improvement in the next year.

The rapid growth of entrepreneurial companies in the North is highlighted by James Lambert, chairman of Yorkshire-based R&R Ice Cream, winner of the EY annual awards earlier this month. The company, whose brands include Fab, Skinny Cow and Kelly’s of Cornwall, has grown from a £250,000 turnover business employing five people to one with a pan-European workforce of nearly 3000 and a turnover approaching £750million. He is credited with leading his industry and “even selling ice cream to Italy."

The survey also included Stuart Paver, whose York-based Paver Shoes business began by selling shoes in village halls. The business spread across the North of England, growing to 100 stores, becoming the largest internet shoe shop in Europe, and expanding internationally in particular in India, where it is now seeking to become one of the top three footwear brands in the country.

While the North leads on growth, Scotland’s entrepreneurs achieved the biggest rates of job creation, growing their workforce by 69% in the past year, according to the analysis. Entrepreneur-created jobs increased in the North by 19.2%, Midlands (9.2%) and London & South (7.8%). Overall the UK entrepreneurs surveyed achieved an average 17.2% growth in jobs at their companies in the past 12 months.

Stuart Watson, EY Partner and Entrepreneur Of The Year Leader said: “The importance of entrepreneurs in leading the economic recovery is clear, with their contribution to the growth, revenue and jobs vastly ahead of the economy in general. It reinforces research by NESTA showing that 6% of outstanding growth companies create half of new, high value jobs.

“The impact on regional economies and confidence cannot be overstated, with entrepreneurs providing a major boost for local innovation, pride and job creation. Innovative and fast-growing businesses have helped the UK regions to become world players in many industries.”

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