The 15 best UK cities to start a business in 2019

Data Insights 14 January 2019

Starting a business can be an exciting endeavour, but getting through the first five years is challenging. The cost of rent, consumer demand, beating the competition, and keeping your cash flowing are often tricky things for SMEs to juggle. A major factor to your start-up’s success is the location you choose – which is where we can help.

Based on factors including business survival rates, weekly salary, average rent, population, and the number of employed adults in the area, we’ve worked out which UK cities offer the best environment for prospective SMEs. If you’re thinking of embarking on a new venture this year, take a look at our top 15 places for starting a business.

 

15. London

It’s probably no surprise that the capital of the UK, which is often considered to be a leading global city, made the list. London accounts for roughly 30% of UK GDP and is a major location for finance, both nationally and internationally. As well as this, it thrives in the media, technology and tourism sectors.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 39.3%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £713.20
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £1,705.35
  • Population: 7,556,900
  • Number of employed adults: 3,817,203
  • Money available per week: £2,722,429,179.60
  • Index score out of 5: 1.36

 

 

 

14. Glasgow

This city has Scotland’s largest economy and the third highest GDP per capita out of all the UK’s cities. Glasgow has seen growth in its communications, biosciences, healthcare, retail, finance, and creative industries. Tourism is also strong in Glasgow, as it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations in Scotland.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 36.1%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £573.60
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £624.75
  • Population: 591,620
  • Number of employed adults: 280,700
  • Money available per week: £161,009,520
  • Index score out of 5: 1.54

 

 

 

13. Manchester

A textile manufacturing boom made Manchester the world’s first industrialised city – it’s also the revolutionary place where scientists first split the atom and graphene was produced. Nowadays, as well as its continued involvement in science and engineering, Manchester is known for its media, culture, music scene, and sports.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 37.5%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £555.90
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £746.09
  • Population: 395,515
  • Number of employed adults: 194,093
  • Money available per week: £107,896,298.70
  • Index score out of 5: 1.66

 

 

 

12. Birmingham

The UK’s so-called ‘second city’ has a long history as a centre for manufacturing and engineering, although the last few decades have seen the services sector take over the local economy. Public administration, health and education are major employers in the city and it’s the third biggest financial centre in the UK. Birmingham also attracts a lot of conference and exhibition trade, thanks to major facilities like the NEC and the ICC.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 39.7%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £584.10
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £752.62
  • Population: 984,333
  • Number of employed adults: 400,679
  • Money available per week: £234,036,603.90
  • Index score out of 5: 1.83

 

 

11. Liverpool

 

Made famous as the birthplace of The Beatles and home of the Merseybeat genre, Liverpool is one of the most visited cities in the UK. Tourism and leisure are big contributors to the city’s economy, as is the services sector. The future looks promising for Liverpool, too, as the economy has been on the up since the mid-1990s.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 38%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £544.30
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £656.02
  • Population: 864,122
  • Number of employed adults: 182,270
  • Money available per week: £99,209,561
  • Index score out of 5: 1.83

 

 

 

10. Edinburgh

The history and culture of the Scottish capital, as well as the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, have made it the UK’s second most popular city break. Scientific research, higher education, and financial services also account for a significant portion of Edinburgh’s local economy.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 42.9%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £613.30
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £763.63
  • Population: 464,990
  • Number of employed adults: 272,000
  • Money available per week: £166,817,600
  • Index score out of 5: 2.02

 

 

 

9. Coventry

Car manufacture and ribbon making are what Coventry is historically associated with. These days, although the automotive sector is still a big part of Coventry’s economy, the city has more involvement in areas such as finance, leisure, logistics, research, and the creative industries.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 42.2%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £595.10
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £616.07
  • Population: 359,262
  • Number of employed adults: 128,764
  • Money available per week: £76,627,456.40
  • Index score out of 5: 2.1

 

 

 

8. Leeds

As well as being one of the UK’s largest legal and financial centres, Leeds has one of the most mixed economies in the UK. Engineering, publishing, chemicals, medical technology, and food and drink are the most major sectors in the city. However, it also has strong retail, leisure, construction, creative, and digital industries.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 41.9%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £551.90
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £659.21
  • Population: 455,123
  • Number of employed adults: 333,333
  • Money available per week: £183,966,482.70
  • Index score out of 5: 2.28

 

 

 

7. Cardiff

The Welsh capital is a popular destination for visitors, which is why its retail, leisure, and tourism sectors account for a large portion of its economy. Cardiff is also Wales’s main business and financial services centre and it has a thriving media sector.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 42%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £529.80
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £694.12
  • Population: 447,287
  • Number of employed adults: 147,955
  • Money available per week: £78,386,559
  • Index score out of 5: 2.31

 

 

 

6. Stoke-on-Trent

Affectionately known as The Potteries, Stoke-on-Trent has a long history as the home of England’s ceramics industry. Although much of the production has moved out of the city, many pottery firms remain. Tours of the factories for these goods help to boost tourism in the city, as does the canal network.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 39.3%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £497.10
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £427.78
  • Population: 372,775
  • Number of employed adults: 103,269
  • Money available per week: £51,335,019.90
  • Index score out of 5: 2.35

 

 

 

5. Bristol

Creative media, electronics, and aerospace are the main industries that hold up Bristol’s economy. It’s a popular tourist destination, which is likely helped by its artistic and sporting influence. Plus, the government named it a science city in 2005 because of its contribution to innovation.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 44.8%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £565.70
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £828.75
  • Population: 617,280
  • Number of employed adults: 197,915
  • Money available per week: £111,960,515.60
  • Index score out of 5: 2.38

 

 

 

4. Leicester

Textiles and shoes were the bread and butter of Leicester’s economy in days gone by. Recent years have seen a resurgence in these areas, as some textile manufacturers have moved back to the city. Much of Leicester’s commerce also lies in the engineering, retail, and food and drink sectors.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 40.5%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £487.90
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £568.75
  • Population: 508,916
  • Number of employed adults: 128,142
  • Money available per week: £62,520,481.80
  • Index score out of 5: 2.42

 

 

 

3. Sunderland

With roots as a trading port, Sunderland is now a strong centre for the services, automotive, science, and technology sectors. Its success is largely helped by Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK, which is the biggest employer in the region.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 41.9%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £517.20
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £550
  • Population: 335,415
  • Number of employed adults: 116,562
  • Money available per week: £60,285,866.40
  • Index score out of 5: 2.46

 

 

 

2. Nottingham

Historically, Nottingham was known for its bicycle manufacturing and lace-making. These days, it’s home to many major companies, while other businesses could benefit from the Nottingham Enterprise Zone and Creative Quarter. Digital media, life sciences, low-carbon technologies, finance, retail, and leisure are major contributors to Nottingham’s economy.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 43.4%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £506.40
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £579.41
  • Population: 729,977
  • Number of employed adults: 112,861
  • Money available per week: £57,152,810.40
  • Index score out of 5: 2.66

 

 

 

1. Sheffield

In 2019, Sheffield is the best UK city where you could start a business. The Steel City is known for its rich, industrial heritage. Although steel production has been in decline since the 1980s, Sheffield still develops advanced manufacturing technologies through its two universities and other research organisations. It’s also a major centre for sport and its public sector is a major employer.

 

  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 44.9%
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £542.10
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £585
  • Population: 685,368
  • Number of employed adults: 227,822
  • Money available per week: £123,502,306.20
  • Index score out of 5: 2.7

 

 

 

In summary

Choosing your location is an important deciding factor in terms of how well your start-up will fare. It’s important to place your business somewhere there is a demand for your output, while still being a cost-effective place to work. Different businesses have varying needs – check out our guide to finding the best small business premises for more advice.

No matter what business you’re setting up, cashflow will always be key to it. If you’re in need of a card machine or card reader then check out what we have on offer as we can set you up to accept card payments in just 3 days. Also, if you are planning to launch an online business, our payment gateway integrates with over 40 e-commerce shopping carts and can be set up in 24 hours.

The stats: Methodology behind our analysis

We determined our list of the best cities to start a business using research into the economic climates of these cities. We looked at the most populated cities in the UK, the average cost to rent a one-bed apartment and start-up survival rates. We also gathered statistics on the number of employed adults and average weekly pay for full-time workers according to local authority statistics and, in the case of London, regional statistics. In the case of employed adults, English cities use census data from 2011, while Scottish data is from 2017-2018. To create the index score out of five and determine a final ranking from 1-15, an algorithm was developed to weigh each of the factors.  

Read more: If you consider starting an international business or if you are simply looking for inspiration, have a look at the most popular startup industries across Europe here.

 

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