The 15 best UK cities to start a business in 2020

Data Insights 27 January 2020

Location is one of the key factors to be considered when launching a start-up, as it can really make or break a business. It’s one of the reasons that over half of UK start-ups fold in the first five years. To help you on the right path, we’ve rounded up the top 15 UK cities for start-ups, looking at factors like business survival rates, average rent, and population.

To help women in business better understand the best location to start up, we’ve looked at the number of females employed in each city, the average gender pay gap percentage in those areas and the percentage of female business owners per city.

15. Glasgow

Home to Scotland’s largest economy, Glasgow has flourished within biosciences, healthcare, communications, finance, creative industries, and retail. Tourism is another big money spinner, with both Scottish and international visitors bringing in over £300m into the local economy each year.

  • Population: 591,620
  • Number of females employed: 118,850
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 37.46%
  • Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £626
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £433
  • Gender pay gap: 22.1% 
  • Female business owners: 28.3%
  • Index score out of 5: 3.98

14. Southampton

Over a quarter of the jobs available in Southampton are in health and education, while the city is also something of a hub for property, wholesale, and retail businesses. Southampton has a strong 39.29% five-year start-up survival rate and is noted for its diverse population. 

  • Population: 246,201 
  • Number of females employed: 47,531
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 39.29%
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £715
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £397
  • Gender pay gap: 18.5%
  • Female business owners: 31%
  • Index score out of 5: 4.19

Photo from Flickr

13. Bradford

Bradford may have seen its once flourishing textile industry fall into decline, but it has moved past this and created a strong presence in finance, chemicals, engineering, and manufacturing. It currently boasts  an economy worth close to £9.5 billion.

  • Population: 299,310 
  • Number of females employed: 94,462
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 42%
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £450
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £367
  • Gender pay gap: 12.7%
  • Female business owners: 22.9%
  • Index score out of 5: 4.34

Photo from Flickr

12. Manchester

Manchester became the world’s first industrialised city, thanks to the boom in textile manufacturing, and has never looked back since. Today, the city boasts the third largest population in England and makes a significant contribution to creative industries, science and engineering, music, art, and sport. 

  • Population: 395,515
  • Number of females employed: 88,998
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 37.52%
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £769
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £468
  • Gender pay gap: 11.4%
  • Female business owners: 24%
  • Index score out of 5: 4.38

11. Bristol

Bristol has transformed from a flourishing port city into one of the most profitable economies in the UK, thanks largely to its efforts within IT, financial services, tourism, art, and sport industries. It was also named a science city in 2005 due to its significant contribution towards innovation and was actually the fifth best place to start a business in our 2019 index. What’s more exciting is that Bristol is home to Paymentsense’s brand new office for 2020.

  • Population: 617,280
  • Number of females employed: 92,604
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 44.36%
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £887
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £432
  • Gender pay gap: 17.1%
  • Female business owners: 24.5%
  • Index score out of 5: 4.45

10. Hull

Hull is one of the UK’s largest goods and passenger ports and is a major energy and communications hub. The city is also doing its bit for the environment, having opened a new £200m waste-to-energy plant that utilises state-of-the-art technology to convert waste to electricity.  

  • Population: 314,018
  • Number of females employed: 49,300 
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 38.76% 
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £497
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £348
  • Gender pay gap: 12.7% 
  • Female business owners: 32.6% 
  • Index score out of 5: 4.51

Photo from Flickr

9. Coventry

Coventry owes much of its thriving economy to the automotive sector, but the city is evolving and makes notable contributions towards sectors ranging from finance and research to leisure, logistics, and creative industries. 

  • Population: 359,262 
  • Number of females employed: 60,492
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 40.60% 
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £660
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £395 
  • Gender pay gap: 14.6% 
  • Female business owners: 29.2% 
  • Index score out of 5: 4.52

8. Derby

Derby is something of a powerhouse when it comes to advanced transport manufacturing. It’s home to both Toyota and the world’s second largest aero-manufacturer, Rolls Royce. The city is also known for its contributions to rail and automotive technology, and was the home of the now defunct Core Design, who created the iconic video game Tomb Raider in the mid-90s. 

  • Population: 270,468 
  • Number of females employed: 49,863
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 41.07%
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £506
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £429
  • Gender pay gap: 22.7% 
  • Female business owners: 32.5% 
  • Index score out of 5: 4.8

Photo from Flickr

7. Stoke-on-Trent

Once home to England’s beloved ceramics industry, Stoke-on-Trent still thrives on tourists who flock to take tours of the many pottery factories dotted around the city. Today, Stoke-on-Trent is home to approximately 9,000 businesses, including bet365, and is the UK’s best city for female-led start-ups.  

  • Population: 372, 775
  • Number of females employed: 46,933 
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 38.51% 
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £413
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £364
  • Gender pay gap: 14.6% 
  • Female business owners: 35.7% 
  • Index score out of 5: 4.86

Photo from Flickr

6. Reading

Reading is well-known for its legendary annual music festival, which began back in 1971. It also houses an impressive mix of both British and overseas multinational organisations. The town is something of a hotspot for tech companies, with Microsoft, Symantec, and Huawei just three big brands with a notable local presence. 

  • Population: 318,014
  • Number of females employed: 34,119 
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 40.65% 
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £873
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £460 
  • Gender pay gap: 18.5% 
  • Female business owners: 33.4% 
  • Index score out of 5: 4.86

Photo from Flickr

5. Leeds

Leeds has one of the most diverse economies in the UK and is one of the country’s largest legal and financial centres. Other major sectors include engineering, chemicals, medical technology, and food and drink. In recent years, Leeds has also emerged as a major player in the digital and creative industries. 

  • Population: 455,123 
  • Number of females employed: 158,591
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 42.88% 
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £654
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £389 
  • Gender pay gap: 12.7% 
  • Female business owners: 28.4% 
  • Index score out of 5: 4.89

4. Sheffield

Sheffield has evolved past the decline of its once dominant steel industry to become one of the best cities for UK start-ups. It is a major destination for employment within the sport and public sectors and is notable for its advanced technologies within manufacturing. 

  • Population: 685,368 
  • Number of females employed: 107,718 
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 42.66% 
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £587
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £373
  • Gender pay gap: 12.7% 
  • Female business owners: 29.9% 
  • Index score out of 5: 4.9

3. Swansea

The service sectors are well represented in Swansea, with close to 90% of those employed there working in education, health, public administration, or finance. The city is also home to the DVLA headquarters, as well as several technology and communication giants. 

  • Population: 300,352
  • Number of females employed: 45,724
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 38.79% 
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £608
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £375 
  • Gender pay gap: 8.7% 
  • Female business owners: 34% 
  • Index score out of 5: 4.96

Photo from Flickr

2. London

As one of the world’s most visited cities, it’s no surprise the UK capital is riding high on our list. The iconic city is responsible for approximately 30% of UK GDP and is a major player in both national and international finance. London also thrives when it comes to media, technology, and tourism.  

  • Population: 7,556,900 
  • Number of females employed: 1,771,202 
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 39.35% 
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £1,699 
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £545 
  • Gender pay gap: 19.6% 
  • Female business owners: 22.7% 
  • Index score out of 5: 4.99

1. Milton Keynes

With a thriving economy that includes key players within the scientific, professional, retail, and technical sectors, Milton Keynes offers SMEs a great chance to thrive, with a 41.91% five-year survival rate. Several national and international brands all reside in Milton Keynes, including Argos, Mercedes-Benz, Domino’s Pizza, and Suzuki. 

  • Population: 229,941
  • Number of females employed: 57,463
  • 5-year start-up survival rate: 41.91% 
  • Cost of living (Monthly rent per household): £880 
  • Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £473 
  • Gender pay gap: 18.5% 
  • Female business owners: 31.8% 
  • Index score out of 5: 5

In summary

Choosing a prime location that’s convenient for carrying out your services and catering to your customer base plays a crucial factor in the long-term success of your business; it’s all about balance. 

For further inspiration, take a look at our handy guide to finding the best small business premises. It’s packed with tips on what to consider when scouting for the perfect business location, including weighing up the local talent pool, and rental costs.

Cash flow can also be a major problem for new businesses, especially when poorly managed. To make life easier, consider setting up a card machine or card reader, which can simplify your cash flow and save you considerable time. 

Planning to launch your business online? Our payment gateway is an out of the box payment solution, which can integrate with over 40 e-commerce shopping carts.

 

Methodology

Our list of best business start-up cities was compiled by analysing the economic climates of the UK’s most populated cities. We looked at the average cost to rent a one-bed city centre apartment, five-year start-up survival rates, number of adults employed and the average weekly income.

For 2020, we wanted our list to have a strong female focus, and so we gathered statistics on the number of females employed, gender pay gap data and the percentage of female business owners per city. 

Each factor was then scaled to create a score, and each score was then added together to give an overall figure that could provide a city’s position within our ranking. Each factor is weighted equally.

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