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The Smart City Index: Where are the best places to start a business?

Entrepreneurism is bursting out all over the country – but where is the best place to start? Vishal Chhatralia, VP of Digital Marketing, RS Components gives us the lowdown.


With the economy booming, it’s now possible to start a business almost anywhere. But it’s no secret that starting a business is tough, with research suggesting more than half of UK startups are not surviving the first five years, Factors such as rent prices, bills, and poor cash management can often lead to failure.

Choosing the right location is key, and can be the difference between success and failure for a small business. When setting up a business, one of the most important things that people shouldn’t overlook is the location, so it’s worthwhile asking yourself a number of questions before you commit.

Are there any similar businesses nearby? Although some businesses can benefit from being located in a cluster of similar businesses, for many others, having too many close competitors can have a bad impact on sales. If you find that you are surrounded by similar businesses, find a way to stand out.

How much passing trade do you need? Depending on the nature of your business, the amount of passing trade could have a huge impact on the success of your business. Work out the average spend per customer and find out if the area provides enough footfall. Is it important to be close to your suppliers? If done right, this could this give you flexibility on stock control or reduce transport costs.

While it’s important to consider all of the factors above, it may also be worth considering changing location entirely. There’s a variety of reasons why there’s a better chance of thriving in some places than others, but business startup and closure figures could be a good indication.

So where is the best place to start a business?

Everyone knows that London is a hub for thriving businesses, whether they are startups or established SMEs. But while London has an unrivalled buzz, there are plenty of other places where small and medium-sized businesses can thrive.

Outside of London, where the startup rate is 91 per 10,000 population, Slough is attracting new business at a faster rate than anywhere else in the UK, with a rate of 83 startups per 10,000 population. This could be down to the fact that Slough has one of the country’s oldest and largest trading estates, and is home to major automotive and technology companies.

Slough was also recently crowned the best place to live and work in. A survey by job site Glassdoor found it came first for work, the cost of living and employee satisfaction.

Milton Keynes follows closely in 3rd place, with a startup rate of 81 per 10,000 population. Close to the capital but with more affordable living costs and a wealth of support for new businesses, it’s easy to see why Milton Keynes is a popular place to start a business. It has one of the country’s most successful economies, with an especially healthy track record for SMEs.

Manchester ranks in fourth place, with 78 startups per 10,000 population. There’s a good business ecosystem in Manchester of smaller and larger companies, as well as startups and small businesses. It also ranked in second place for the best place to live and work according to Glassdoor. It’s the second fastest growing economy in the UK (behind London) with a workforce of 1.4 million.

Northampton has the fifth highest startup rate in the UK, with 74 startups per 10,000 population. Not only is Northampton within an hour of both London and Birmingham, which no doubt tempts budding entrepreneurs, but it has also been helped by the fact that the town has implemented a programme of actively supporting local businesses.

However, there are some cities budding entrepreneurs might want to be wary of if they’re planning on starting up business somewhere new. Want to know where your city ranks? You can view the startup index here.