Top tips for starting up outside of London

Kathy McArdle, CEO of Nottingham’s Creative Quarter, an area launched to champion enterprise in the city.

1. 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 as big as London. As local authorities are given increasing powers and flexibility over their own expenditure, cities across the UK are investing significant sums of money into ambitious business and enterprise plans, making those necessary resources readily available. 

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 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 country, the Growth Accelerator programme has supported thousands of companies to grow their business with the support of great coaches.

2. Get connected

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. 

In a smaller city and region like D2N2, it’s easier to meet representatives from those larger corporates who might need your business to support their research and development, Innovation Strategies or supply chains. Other core cities and LEP regions around the country will offer similar access points to make it easier to create productive networks for your business.  

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.

3. Tap into the local talent 

New businesses should take the opportunity to tap into the huge talent pool on offer with students and graduates providing a cost-effective extra resource, fresh enthusiasm and additional skills.

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. 

The other opportunity is to take on an apprentice. Often small businesses tell me that they love having an apprentice as you can train them in the skills your organisation needs, they bring a fresh perspective, and they can end up staying with your organisation.

4. Get creative 

Office space and its associated costs are one of the biggest overheads for any company but 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 workspace without having to rent a desk. Co-working space is 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 the 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.

5. Take it slow & think it through

The key thing is to identify your business proposition – what product or service are you offering in response to an identified need. There are some great books out there on the lean start-up model which are worth digesting (Try ‘The Lean Start-Up’ by Eric Ries). 

You need to research your potential market and know that there’s a clear need emerging in society or in a particular market for your product and a distribution/marketing plan.  There’s no point in creating a great product or service if you don’t know how to get it to market or if people don’t know about it. Get some good advice from entrepreneurs themselves who’ve already done it. They’ve been there and wear the tee-shirt and are usually more than happy to share their tales and their learning.

Have you decided to start a business outside of London? Leave your comments in the box below. 


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