#6 Starting a business in Leeds

Said to be the UK’s main financial centre outside of London – could Leeds be the city to base your business?

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:
business talentdividerbusiness supportdividerbusiness fundingdividerquality of life
TalentSupportFundingQuality of life


Why start a business in Leeds?

According to Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, the city is the “largest” outside of London and generates 4% of the UK’s economic output – claims which put Leeds on the map as a potential area to start a business. With Manchester and Sheffield less than an hour away by road and rail, the ports of Hull and Humber less than 50 miles away, and Leeds Bradford International Airport in close proximity, the city is well situated for start-up businesses looking to access local and wider market opportunities.

The city has a growing population of financial services businesses and is said to be the UK’s major financial centre outside the capital, which could represent a good opportunity for fintech firms looking for a lower cost of living and a less saturated market.

Population: 774,100

It benefits from good road connections with the East Leeds link road; a £32m dual carriageway which links Leeds city centre to junction 45 of the M1 motorway, and has higher average road speeds than the West Yorkshire region as a whole of 23.6 miles per hour.

Leeds has a high amount of Grade A office stock available for new businesses with 119,582 sq. ft. of office space. Its largest commercial development is Bridgewater Place which has 28,000 sq ft available for start-ups followed by City Point which has over 22,000 sq ft of commercial space.

Take a look at our guide to the 8 best offices to rent in Leeds.

With five shopping centres all located in and around the city centre (Saint John’s, Merrion, Trinity, The Light and The Core), commercial space is plentiful. The city’s latest commercial development Trinity Leeds is spread over one million sq ft, has already attracted over 120 retailers and has several leasing opportunities available. Leeds council also has several industrial units and business properties to rent which can be found here.

Access to talent in Leeds

business talent166,700: Working age population with NVQ Level 4 and above (2015)
£528.70: Average full-time weekly earnings (2016)
3: Universities

33% of Leeds’ working age population had NVQ Level 4 qualifications and above. This is lower than comparable cities such as Manchester (39.5%) and Bristol (47.9%). The city has three universities all within close radius; University of Leeds; a Russell Group university ranked among the world’s top 100, Leeds Metropolitan University, and Leeds Trinity University. Combined, the three universities produce around 36,000 graduates each year with its highest number of graduates specialising in medicine and dentistry (6,000 graduates in 2010), business and management (5,800), and biological sciences (2,800 graduates).

Number of new start-ups (2015):4,315  – see how this compares with other cities

Salaries for the Leeds area are around average for the country, with average full-time weekly earnings approximately £528.7 a week for 2015; comparable to cities such as Cardiff (£531.40) and Bristol (£526.80).

Access to business support in Leeds

business support1: Accelerators
1: Science parks

Leeds City Region LEP is the main point of contact for business support after it recently secured a £1bn ‘Local Growth Deal’ with government which will look to create “tens of thousands of new jobs and accelerate economic growth across the entire city region”.

Survival rates (2010-2015):41.8%

Part of this investment will be rolled out across the Aire Valley Leeds enterprise zone; 142 hectares of prime development land. Aire Valley Leeds is one of three new enterprise zones in Yorkshire which have been set up to drive investment, growth and job creation, with lost-cost premises available on site. Still partly under construction, Leeds Council claims that once fully developed the zone will deliver up to 7,000 new jobs and stimulate development of the wider Aire Valley area.

Other recent developments in the city to support businesses includes the new EU-backed Business & IP Centre based at Leeds library. Launched in March 2016 in partnership with the British Library, the centre provides a free service to anyone wishing to start, protect and grow a business. Visitors can access business databases, market research, and directories, and there is a range of free workshops and advice sessions on offer. Leeds was the second city selected to have a centre following a pilot scheme in Newcastle.

For start-ups looking to achieve fast-growth business success, founders can tap into the Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator in Leeds at Park Cross Street. In February 2016, the Leeds hub reported it had helped 142 local businesses attract almost £5.5m of investment; creating 254 new jobs.

Survival rates for businesses in Leeds is also above average with 41.8% of businesses founded in 2010 surviving through to 2015.

Access to grants and funding in Leeds

business funding

Leeds has three main funds available to start-up businesses. The Business Growth Programme provides grant funding of between £10,000 and £50,000 to new or established businesses based in Leeds or those planning to relocate to the area.

For start-ups confident that they can bring economic and employment growth to the area, the Growing Places Fund has a range of available loans. Now in its third round of funding allocation, the £35m scheme has up to £6m to lend to businesses of any size ranging from £500,000 to £1m. However, applicants must be able to lever in at least £3 of private funding for every £1 of the loan funding.

Number of business deaths (2015):2,785

For infrastructure, property development and construction businesses, Leeds has the £10m Revolving Investment Fund (RIF) which seeks to kick-start development projects that will create jobs and economic growth. It provides loans of over £1m to commercially viable businesses and projects infrastructure and construction projects on the basis that loans must be repaid within five years.

Positioning itself as one of the main financial centres outside of London (according to Leeds City Region LEP), Leeds has a thriving financial services industry and offers an accelerator primarily targeted at start-ups in the financial sector, Dotforge. Said to be the UK’s “first” regional financial technology (FinTech) Dotforge, offers a package of funding, office space, mentoring and networking opportunities.

Outside of government funding and accelerator schemes, Leeds also has a growing angel network the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels (YABA) which has a network of over 140 angel investors and supports investments of up to £300,000.

Quality of life in Leeds

quality of life£170,927: Property price average (September 2016)
83.45: Crimes per 1,000 people (June 2015)
18.3mbps: Average broadband speed (2014)

House prices in Leeds are noticeably higher than nearby cities with a similar make-up; the Land Registry calculated average house prices at £170,927 for September 2016 which is similar to Hull (£166,519) and Aberdeen (£171,955).

Crime levels in Leeds are just below average for the UK with 83.45 crimes committed per 1,000 people in the year ending June 2015. This figure is significantly lower than the crime rates of similar cities such as Manchester (109.39 crimes per 1,000 people) and Hull (101.94 per 1,000 people).

A growing cosmopolitan district, Leeds has attracted major private sector investment to the tune of £1.1bn following its Trinity Quarter retail scheme, the new First Direct arena and the Eastgate retail development, which opened last year.

For entrepreneurs looking to juggle work with socialising, the city’s Greek Street is the place to go for restaurants and bars, whilst on the entertainment front (as well as the recently launched arena) Leeds also boasts the O2 Academy and the Brudenell Social Club; known for its live gigs and comedy acts.

Written by:

Leave a comment

Leave a reply

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

Back to Top