City view: Manchester

As the centre of Britain's 19th century textile manufacturing industry, Manchester's entrepreneurial history dates back to the industrial revolution, when the city found itself the subject of Friedrich Engels' ominously-titled 'The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844', which described the workforce as living in 'ruinous cottages behind broken windows mended with oilskin, spring doors and rotten door-posts... in measureless filth and stench'.

Happily for the city's labour force, conditions have improved somewhat, and Manchester is now a blossoming metropolis known for its burgeoning creative industries and bustling cultural scene. In fact, as former Stone Roses front man and lifelong Manchester resident Ian Brown put it, "Manchester's got everything except a beach".

Hot sectors

Manchester is the city of WAGs, so it's not surprising that the wholesale and retail sectors make up for nearly 16% of the local economy, closely followed by the real estate and health sectors. Laura Hall, who runs her business, Laura Coleman Flowers, from the city, says sports is also a popular industry. "2008 was branded as the Year of Sport - we had five major sporting events coming to the city, which brought in tourists. We also have major employers like Adidas and Reebok based in the area."

With two universities and one of the country's top music schools also located in the city, the creative industries are flourishing. "It's got that mini-London feel," says Hall. "It's very cosmopolitan, and innovation is always encouraged. Manchester isn't a city to sit back and let the world happen around it."

Living in Manchester

For Hall, who moved from the South, the city's main advantage is its level of diversity over a relatively small area. "You've got everything you need, from Selfridges to your local market, within 20 minutes."

Hall lives in bohemian Didsbury, in the south of Manchester. "I suppose London's equivalent would be Clapham. It's only four miles out of the city centre, 15 minutes on the motorway to beautiful countryside, and 10-15 minutes on a bus to great shops and cosmopolitan bars." She says her favourite feature of the city is its size. "You get a really nice mix - I live near countryside, but on the edge of a big city. I'm very lucky."

Business support

According to Hall, innovation at the centre of Manchester City Council's agenda. "When I decided to make that move from floristry as a hobby to turning it into a commercial venture, they were the first people to give me a major break. I was employed by the council's events unit to deliver all of the floristry services for the world swimming championships. They're incredibly encouraging to small business."

However, as with many city centres, the local branch of the Forum of Private Business (FPB) has complained high parking charges are driving customers out of the city towards free parking in out-of-town facilities, while the end of last year saw the council reluctantly shelve plans to introduce congestion charging after more than 800,000 locals voted against the scheme, much to the relief of the local Federation of Small Business (FSB), who branded it a 'disincentive to investment'.

Where can I...

... take clients to lunch?
Located in WAG-infested Altrincham, Juniper is the city's only Michelin-starred restaurant. Having held its Michelin star for 10 years, previous owner Paul Kitching handed over the reins to Swiss food lothario Michael Riemenschneider late last year, who proceeded to create a menu which makes 'references to both (the chef's) German heritage and classic French cuisine', according to The Guardian. The 27-year-old is known for his skills combining classic ingredients with modern twists: expect a spectacle.
Juniper , 21 The Downs, Altrincham, WA14 2QD. Tel: 0161 280 1433

... take a coffee break?
Having reclaimed an old-fashioned tea shop in Manchester's posh Didsbury area, The Art of Tea has gone on to channel 1960s Berkeley with a bustling tearoom-cum-bookshop-cum-record emporium. With a wide range of home-made cakes and a reasonably priced lunch menu, the tearoom is the antithesis of the city coffee chain: perfect for entrepreneurs in need of a well-deserved break.
The Art of Tea, 47 Barlow Moor Road, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6TW. Tel: 0161 448 9323.

... meet other entrepreneurs?
Greater Manchester Chambers of Commerce is the largest in the country, with over 5,000 entrepreneurs signed up. Consequently, the group is very active, with regular networking and training events, and even a golf society which takes place once a month at clubs around the North West. Networking events take place at various times of day - check the group's events calendar for more information.
Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, 1st Floor, Lee House, 90 Great Bridgewater Street, Manchester M1 5JW. Tel: 0845 602 9469.

... host my launch party?
With its squat roof topped by a distinctive aluminium-clad fin, the Daniel Libeskind-designed Imperial War Museum North is one of the most recognisable silhouettes on the Salford Quays. The museum, which runs exhibitions all year round, can host 330-700 people either as a party or reception venue, or as a place to host a gala dinner. With menus which range from standard canapés to more elaborate five-course dinners, the museum should be flexible enough to cater for most budgets.
Imperial War Museum North, The Quays, Trafford Wharf, Trafford Park, Manchester M17 1TZ. Tel: 0161 836 4000.

... hold a conference?
Known until 2007 as G-Mex, Manchester Central is housed in the city's grade II listed former Central station, putting the venue right at the heart of Manchester's industrial history. The centre itself has a large central hall which can be divided up into two smaller ones, as well as an extra building which houses smaller auditoriums and breakout rooms and can cater to most group sizes - from a board meeting to a conference of up to 9,000 delegates.
Manchester Central, Petersfield, Manchester M2 3GX. Tel: 0161 834 2700.

Vital statistics*

  • No of VAT registered businesses: 444,150
  • Biggest industries: Retail, wholesale, real estate
  • Percentage of the population who are entrepreneurs: 8%
  • Notable local entrepreneurs: Michael Marks and Tom Spencer, Marks & Spencer; Sir Frederick Henry Royce, Rolls Royce; Tony Wilson, Factory Records and The Hacienda

* source: Enterprise Directorate 2007, North West Region

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