Nottingham is one of 25 places to feature in a Sunday Times list of UK cities with a vibrant start-up business scene.
On the day a tour bus rolls into the city to drum up support for Small Business Saturday – a national initiative supported by the City Council to encourage people to support small businesses – Nottingham’s start-up business scene is featured in a special 84-page ‘Start-up Cities’ guide (published on Sunday 15 November 2015).
The special supplement shines a spotlight on the city’s life science industry, citing Nottingham as one of the UK’s fastest growing places for life science. It also mention’s the city’s nationally award-winning Creative Quarter and the support entrepreneurial graduates receive from both of the city’s two universities.
Andrew Lynch, Sunday Times Assistant Business Editor who edited The Start-up List and met with some of the many start-up businesses from the city, said: “I was very impressed by the sweep of businesses I saw in Nottingham – from BioCity to the Creative Quarter by way of the independent traders of Hockley such as the Ugly Bread Bakery. The city is blessed with two universities that are committed to the entrepreneurship and the local community.”
Councillor Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Jobs, Growth and Transport, at Nottingham City Council, said: “I’m really pleased that the city’s start-up business scene has been highlighted by a national business publication in this way.
“We have so many terrific companies and entrepreneurs – from the huge array of independent new creative businesses in our Creative Quarter to incubator businesses starting out in Nottingham’s BioCity and MediCity facilities and finance technology entrepreneurs emerging from Nottingham’s established finance powerhouses – in a variety of sectors, which is great for the local economy. It brings job opportunities for our citizens and it’s great for the city.”
The City Council is currently investing £40m of funding from Europe, the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and through the council itself to expand bioscience facilities in the city which will help both start-up ‘incubator’ life science businesses to establish themselves and provide more space for existing small and medium bioscience businesses to expand.
A further £10m is being invested to expand facilities and refurbish buildings at Sneinton Market and to transform a former Victorian hosiery factory into a new hub for creative and digital businesses on Daykene Street in Sneinton.
With household names who established businesses in the city like Jesse Boot, Nottingham has a long tradition of producing entrepreneurs. Some of the cities recent start-up successes have been supported through the City Council’s Growth Hub Team, who are there to offer entrepreneurs free advice on what support programmes and organisations are available to them.
The City Council itself has also provided funding or schemes to support start-up businesses, including the ‘N-Tech’ grant scheme (superseded by the N2 Business Growth Fund) which provided financial grants to support the development of businesses operating within Nottingham’s three priority growth sectors – life sciences, digital content and clean technologies. Beneficiaries of this scheme included Dr Richard Weaver who established XenoGesis, a drug discovery company based at BioCity Nottingham in 2011 which, through the support of the N-Tech grant, allowed the company to expand from a team of three to 17 and take on larger premises at BioCity, adding more skills to the team and services to clients.
Nottingham born Jade Vendone – owner of the hugely popular Ugly Bread Bakery in Hockley – received a grant through the council which helped people to set-up businesses in vacant shops in the city during the national recession. As well as providing support to businesses establishing themselves, the scheme also helped the city centre economy by reducing vacancy rates during the national economic downturn.
Jade, who has been shortlisted for three local Women in Business awards, is on the verge of celebrating her business’ first birthday later this month with a special weekend of activities and promotions.
Heidi Hargreaves, owner of the Nottingham-themed gift shop DUKKI, is benefitting from a one year rent-free unit in Intu Broadmarsh as her prize for winning an Inspiring Retail competition run by the council in association with private sector partners including Intu. The unit has enabled Heidi to establish a permanent base for her quirky Nottingham themed gifts very close to the entrance to one of the city’s big tourist attractions – The Caves of Nottingham.
There is also a variety of other support available for entrepreneurs in Nottingham, including; NBV – which is the East Midlands leading provider for start-up support and which the council has helped to secure funding from the regional growth fund to establish a ‘Start and Grow’ scheme to support start-up and small businesses to establish themselves and expand; the award winning Creative Quarter, which supports creative and digital businesses; and Nottingham Trent University which runs The Hive – an incubator which includes a city centre shop allowing students and graduates to experiment in opening a retail business in a friendly and supportive environment.
Another of the city’s start-up success stories is high-end fashion designer and maker of one-off pieces, Samaira Ghani. She started SG Clothing in Nottingham with the support of NBV and following a showcase at London Fashion Week she is now in Vogue and her collection is being stocked by the Beverly Hills fashion showroom that dresses Beyonce, Jessica Alba and other A list stars. Samaira will soon be moving her business to expand into a new space in the Creative Quarter.
Nottingham has a thriving finance industry, and one of Nottingham’s most successful start-up tech businesses in recent times was the TDX Group, founded by former Capital One employee, Mark Onyett. The company was later sold for £200m. Mark is now a partner in Blenheim Chalcott which invests in start-up businesses in the city. One of these is BusinessFinanceCompared.com co-founded by Olly Betts; an online comparison service for small business lending.
Cllr McDonald added: “We recognise the importance of nurturing and supporting entrepreneurs, particularly those who have the potential to “kick on”, and our business Growth Hub Team are here to support and guide people who are thinking of setting up a business. I think Nottingham has a fantastic message about the entrepreneurs who are establishing themselves here and across a wide variety of sectors, and I believe it is the mix of supportive partnerships between the public and private sector and the collaboration with our two universities to encourage graduates to stay and establish themselves here, which makes Nottingham a fantastic place to start-up a business.”
There are a number of programmes and initiatives specifically designed to help start-ups. Full details are on the City Council’s Growing Nottingham website www.growingnottingham.com.
Anyone thinking of starting a business can contact the council’s Growth Hub Team who can provide free support and guidance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Growth Hub currently supports and advises over 300 Nottingham businesses, including many entrepreneurs and those who have just started out.