Over 6 million people call London home, and for good reason. With over one million small businesses in operation across the capital, as detailed by the FSB, it’s the highest number in the UK. Few places in Europe boast the sheer number of business-friendly conditions, along with a huge market of ever-changing people who stay in the city on a permanent or temporary basis.
On prestige alone, starting and operating a business in London is extremely popular. The familiar ‘020’ phone numbers and famous London postcodes are so sought after as trust signals that many businesses operating outside the city will pay to have mail sent via these addresses. With office space roughly twice the price of the rest of England, and 7-8 times higher than Edinburgh, competition to survive is fierce. However, with the right entrepreneurial qualities, strategies, and ideas, starting and running a business from a great city like London is possible.
The right stuff
Any small business owner will tell you that going it alone is rarely advisable. Outsourcing certain functions, especially those related to legal, administrative, or logistical matters, can ease the burden of responsibility on small teams, or even single business owners trying to get started. London, however, is well-equipped. Firstly, there’s the sheer number of people and especially skilled workers. It’s one of the most populated cities in Europe, so finding the specialists you need is more likely here than anywhere.
In the early days, small businesses need to be aware of the regulations and infrastructure they’ll need to rely on. Thankfully, London has some of the most stable regulatory and legal systems in the world. Typically, professionals like accountants and solicitors are very common expenditures for small businesses.
For example, the cost of being sued because of a personal injury incurred on business premises – and not having the right representation or insurance – can effectively eradicate a business’ cash flow. Plenty of firms know this and provide brilliant resources and guidance to break down the kinds of legal exposure a business can be liable for. Plenty of the larger, international firms like McGinley Solicitors boast free archives of legal explainers. The same goes for accounting. Several startups have released low-cost, automated software and applications to make the process of bookkeeping a matter of minutes – some of the best-known include Quickbooks, Sage, and Xero.
The UK government is a great system of support for small businesses and offers several financial incentives and tax write-offs to help ambitious entrepreneurs. Some of the best-known include capital allowances, R&D tax credits, and subsidies on business costs like internet or equipment. On a more local level, there are also communal resources available, including free-to-use business libraries and a healthy culture of meet-ups of like-minded businesses owners. Downloading free apps like Eventbrite is a good way to find these sorts of functions, where networking and investment are top of the bill. London tech firms, for example, have a huge share of funding across the UK – some 70% of all tech funding in the UK, with over £2.45 billion per year, for the past five or more years.
It might seem obvious, but there’s a market for everything in London. With transport links unlike anywhere else in the UK and the famous underground network, few cities are as well-equipped to host tens of millions of potential customers every year. The competition amongst larger businesses, who need large spaces to host their sprawling outlets is almost fiercer than the small business landscape. Not only can you easily operate remotely and still reach all those people, but there are a huge number of co-working and pop-up spaces in central locations around the city.
Businesses thrive on infrastructure and access to supply chains and customers. What makes cities like London great is that they facilitate entrepreneurs almost by default. The layout and structure of logistics and transport in London, along with a business-friendly approach to governance, means getting going is popular, but still possible for anyone.