Nottingham has been ranked third in a list of the UK’s most entrepreneurial cities. We asked local entrepreneurs what makes it such a great base for their startups and explored the effect being based here has had on their growth.
With direct routes to London, a thriving business population and with a number of global brands calling it home, Nottingham has long been recognised as a key business hub. In a report launched today, it was named the third most entrepreneurial city by number of new business launched between 2016-2017.
These business owners all chose Nottingham as their base, some hailing from the region and others making the move here from other parts of the country, attracted by the inward investment and growth opportunities.
Aaron Dicks, founder, Impression
Aaron Dicks was just 22 when he founded his digital marketing agency alongside partner Tom Craig. Today, he employs more than 30 staff and is based in the heart of Nottingham’s Creative Quarter. He told us:
“Being in Nottingham has been a huge factor in our very fast growth. From the early days, we were able to take advantage of various financial schemes intended to help businesses like ours find their feet, including technology grants to equip our staff with the very best tools. Opportunities to learn through schemes like the Growth 100 programme at the University of Nottingham helping me develop as a manager.
“We’ve been able to work with some really supportive people too, including the local councils, universities and organisations, which has helped us build our brand and grow our client base.
“The funding and formal support are all huge benefits. But for me, it’s more about the community that we have here. There are so many formal and informal networking groups and meetups that bring people and businesses together for mutual benefits, and that’s really helped us. There’s a real buzz about the city, it’s exciting to be here and we fully intend to stay for much longer yet!”
Tara Askham, founder, Infused Learning
Tara Askham and Natalie Sharpe founded Infused Learning in 2014. Their business has grown significantly in that time and they continue to run their not for profit enterprise from Lenton. Tara told us:
“Nottingham is a vibrant city with excellent infrastructure and transport links as well as a booming business sector so we are not surprised Nottingham was No 3 in the UK. Nottingham is full of innovative individuals and companies; and the business, and wider community, nurtures this and entrepreneurial spirit with a wide range of local initiatives to support business start-up and development.
“For us, Nottingham was an obvious choice. The Council’s Ambition 2025 strategy illustrates its dedication to the education sector and businesses are keen to engage with the new type of supported distance learning education that we offer.”
Ben Newth, founder, Reel Media
Ben runs his video production agency Reel Media from Stoney House, situated amongst a range of creative agencies and businesses. His client base includes some of the region’s best known brands. He told us:
“Nottingham is a great city to be in, especially as a creative business. We certainly feel the buzz of creativity in the area and that’s made it possible for us to grow as a business and also to attract some brilliant talent from the local universities, too.
“For us, basing ourselves in Nottingham was an obvious choice. Aside from anything else, the office costs are much lower here than somewhere like London, for example, and that’s meant we’ve been able to build a fully equipped studio which makes it possible for us to create highly professional, exciting projects for our clients.
“The local business community is also a big part of what makes Nottingham great. I’m not surprised to see Nottingham in the number 3 position for entrepreneurship as I meet so many entrepreneurs day to day who are doing some really interesting and exciting things.”
Terry Hill, marketing director, KLG
The founders of KLG are self-proclaimed ‘Nottingham through and through’, and have based their business here since 1974. KLG’s marketing director Terry told us:
“The company has grown up with Nottingham since 1974 and experienced all the same highs and lows along the way.
“The growth of the population and improved transport links has kept the city attractive to new employers and employees.
“Historically Nottingham has had a proud tradition of industry and manufacture, Lace Industry, Cussons Soap, John Player, Speedo, Plessey, Boots, Raleigh and Crossland Filters to name just a few of the huge Nottingham employers of the 70’s. This also coupled together with the Mining industry and the forced closures of many mines in the 70’s and 80’s leading to people having to invest in themselves and start ups to survive and continue to breed the entrepreneurial spirit of the city. In latter years the thriving student community and two great universities has brought an influx of modern technology and employment opportunities to migrating graduates who then learn a trade or discipline and set up their own businesses in the city.”
Alex Tebbs, co-founder and sales director, VIA
“Our core team has always been East Midlands-based so when deciding where to establish VIA, Nottingham was a real no brainer.
“The growth of the city within recent years has been staggering, not least within its financial infrastructure but also as a thriving hub for technology-based start-ups. VIA feel part of a real tech community here and its youthful presence only serves to strengthen our brand and give us an increased sense of identity. Being positioned centrally has also enabled us to maintain strong relationships with clients throughout the entirety of the UK. I’m adamant that our climb towards being the largest hosted Skype for Business providers in the UK wouldn’t have been possible without being situated in the epicentre of it all.
“The Nottingham of today would have been unrecognisable five years ago so I’m excited to see how the city’s going to progress within the next five years.”
Other cities noted in the list of most entrepreneurial cities, compiled by Instant Offices, included Brighton, which made the top spot, Manchester in second and Leicester in fourth.