Starting a business in Edinburgh: A small business guide

The location of a startup is important because it influences its rate of growth and expansion. Edinburgh has been named as the best place to start a small business in the UK.

In 2017 Edinburgh was named as the best place to start a small business in the UK. Since this announcement, many entrepreneurs have moved to the city to start new businesses. The city has also emerged as a tech hub in the UK, boosting the population of Edinburgh’s tech companies.

How is Edinburgh different from other cities? What attracts small businesses to the city? Here is a discussion of the city’s unique characteristics.

Why start a business in Edinburgh?

Expert Market conducted research among UK cities and found Edinburgh ahead of other major cities like Glasgow, Bristol, and London. Edinburgh stands out in some areas, including cost-effective office spaces, fast internet connections, and a large talent pool.

However, the main characteristic that attracts many entrepreneurs is the city’s small size. The advantage of starting a small business in a small-sized city is that you have easy access to other established firms. It is easy to create a strong social network and learn from other founders in a small city.

Businesses operating in a small city like Edinburgh tend to work together and hold joint events. Founders use such events to share ideas and opportunities.

A strong business community enables start-ups to scale up fast. Business owners in Edinburgh have access to mentors and a competent talent pool to grow their businesses. In addition, the quality of life in the city is great. Entrepreneurs and their staff members can enjoy a vibrant social life in the city after work.

Edinburgh statistics:

  • Population: 489,000
  • Number of new start-ups (2015): 3,055
  • Business support: Two accelerators, three science parks

Access to support and funding

One of the most common challenges for startups is access to capital. New business owners have a challenge getting loans to scale up their businesses. Financial institutions are reluctant to offer loans to new businesses because of the high risks involved. Consequently, many start-ups close down because of lack of capital to sustain the operations. Edinburgh has an active network of investors.

The city hosts many organisations that provide support and funding to small businesses. Hence, entrepreneurs here have access to quality information to help them establish successful ventures.

The small size of the city enables entrepreneurs to connect with investors especially through the networking events.

The communities in the city are a great source of inspiration for entrepreneurs. Established organizations in Edinburgh such as Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise, and Entrepreneurial Scotland help small businesses to expand their operations. Some of the business owners in the city acknowledge that they would not have achieved their current level of success without support from other founders and organizations.

Entrepreneurial Spark is one of the incubator programs that help individuals develop their ideas into successful businesses. Such support is necessary because many entrepreneurs have great ideas but limited skills and knowledge on how to implement their ideas. Startups are booming in Edinburgh, which is an indication that the support and funding programs are effective.

The business community in Edinburgh

The community spirit in the small city is among the factors attracting new business owners to the city. The business community here is all-inclusive and supportive of all types of businesses.

The new start-ups in Edinburgh are in different industries from product-based industries to technology. Members of the business community are friendly to new comers. Hence, new entrepreneurs fit into the community easily and benefit from the support, inspiration, and mentorship of other founders.

Collaboration is possible when many startups in different fields operate from the same location. Business owners consult one another when facing challenges in their businesses. Entrepreneurs can make informed decisions after considering the guidance, advice, and opinions of founders who have been in the same business for several years.

New business owners need help from experienced to navigate unfamiliar stages in their businesses. Such help is readily available in the ecosystem of founders in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh deserves the reputation as the best city to start a small business in the UK. The city would be a better location for startups if it were near other business and tech hubs.

Closer proximity to such hubs is possible with greater investments from the government in support of SMEs. However, Edinburgh is still a prime location for startups despite the drawbacks. New entrepreneurs have access to funding and support from successful entrepreneurs in the city.

Companies benefit from the pool of university graduates and cost-effective spaces. International institutions like FanDuel and Skyscanner have added to the talent pool that is available to entrepreneurs. In addition, founders in the city hold regular events to encourage business owners to share ideas and strategies. Anyone planning to start a business in the UK should consider moving to Edinburgh.

See also: The essential guide to starting a business in Glasgow

Jonathan Sumner

Jon Sumner

Jonathan was the Director of Digital & Social Media at Bonhill Group plc until 2020 before moving on to become Chief Digital Officer at GRC World Forums.

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