60 FREE business events to grow your network in May 2024

From London to Liverpool, we list the top free UK business events and conferences to attend in your area.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Networking is a skill that every business owner must possess to succeed. A single conference or industry gathering might connect you with a potential supplier, a key client, or even a talented future employee.

Finding the time and place to network, however, is a big challenge – particularly for those who are just starting out. Extortionate event fees can also be a barrier; forcing budget-conscious founders to put away the business cards.

Below, we’ve listed the top business events that are completely free to attend this month, across 14 major UK cities. Whether you’re just about to start a business, or an established founder looking to scale, your big break might be just around the corner..

Free business events in London this May

  • Black Marketplace Popup at Rich Mix (5 May at 11am) a pop-up marketplace celebrating Black-owned businesses in the fashion, art, and home decor industries, hosted at the renowned Rich Mix culture centre in Shoreditch.
  • Wandsworth Business Networking at Clapham Junction (8 May at 6pm) join hundreds of local business owners for an informal networking event hosted by Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce (free prosecco is provided).
  • Parents in Business at The Gate Library (15 May at 11am) a supportive network for working mums and working dads to help them navigate looking after a business and a family.
  • City Ladies Women in Business Networking at Hilton Hotel, Tower of London (30 May at 9am) a breakfast event supported by NatWest Enterprise and featuring Adriana Cloud, a certified life coach (bring your business cards!)

Free business events in Newcastle this May


Geordie hospitality businesses are gearing up for the HITS Expo 2024, a two day event from 13-14 May that celebrates food, drink, and tourism across the North East.

Hosted at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, attendees can take part in the Innovation Showcase, to flaunt their products and services to potential buyers and punters. Scaling firms can also attend the ‘Meet The Expert’ session to learn from the best.

Other free Newcastle business events in May include:

  • STARTUP networking at Newcastle University (1 May at 5pm) an evening of networking, attended by fund managers for the £660m Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, who will discuss and advise on North East finance opportunities.
  • Digital Innovation Showcase at Wylam Brewery (8 May at 2pm) a chance to hear talks from successful businesses across every sector that are using tech to supercharge growth. Network with these and other key players in the ‘Mini Mingle’.
  • Earthlings in Business at the Earthlings Healing Cafe (9 May at 10am) a monthly meet-up event for purpose-led, wellbeing focused businesses or entrepreneurs to share insights on balancing social impact with entrepreneurial targets.
  • Whey Ayes & Shine Breakfast Networking at Komodo Digital (29 May at 8:30am) a two hour meet-up for Geordies based in the tech sector to share ideas for the most important meeting (and meal) of the day.

Free business events in Leeds this May

  • Community Business Breakfast at Tetra Tech (22 May at 8am) a talk hosted by RETAS (Refugee Education Training Advice Service) for breakfast, networking, and insights into recruiting skilled refugee workers as an inclusive employer.
  • Female Founders Forum North at Platform (22 May at 5pm) a relaxed networking event for women in tech to socialise over some nibbles, and share their unique experiences and stories of founding a tech startup.
  • Barclay Lab’s Investment Workshop at Avenue HQ (29 May at 6pm) a legal workshop attended by approachable experts, who can break down the legalese for company owners raising finance (surrounded by free food and beverages).

Free business events in Sheffield this May

The Business Start-up Power Hour Series continues in May with three sessions designed to aid first-time entrepreneurs with the process of setting up a new business.

All sessions are free to sign up to. They take place at Electric Works and are run by Business Sheffield, a free support service for ‘dee-dar’ startups and established businesses.

Other free Sheffield business events in May include:

  • Island Networking Spring Social at All Bar One (1 May at 7:30pm) a networking group hosted by local SMEs. Each night is run as a friendly, casual event where founders can mingle and share stories on the pressures of running a business.
  • SSEN Breakfast Networking at Printed By Us (3 May at 9am) social enterprise founders are invited to attend a relaxed morning of building relationships with fellow entrepreneurs, all with a cup of coffee and some breakfast treats in-hand.

Free business events in Manchester this May

Manchester skyline

  • Centre for Digital Innovation: Meet the Experts at Turing House (16 May at 10am) a workshop funded by Innovate UK, where Intellectual Property experts and R&D tax consultants answer burning questions on how to develop your tech product.
  • Manchester NWCSC Innovation Summit at Manchester Technology Centre (16 May at 4pm) is the hottest ticket in town for organisations based in cybersecurity, the event includes breakout sessions, lectures, and panel discussions.
  • Networking Evening at The Generator (16 May at 4pm) freelancers, entrepreneurs, and creatives are invited to attend an evening of icebreakers and refreshments at The Generator, a new enterprise hub in the city centre.
  • Manchester Business Network at True Manchester (23 May at 7:30pm) an evening of freeflow networking with guest speakers, local chef Gavin and estate agency Jaks&Co, who will both share their success stories and advice for SMEs.

Free business events in Liverpool this May


  • AVIXA Women’s Council at The Spine Building (8 May at 3pm). An opportunity for Liverpool women in the entertainment industry to discuss career tips and stories, swap business cards, and sample tasty snacks at the city’s famous Spine Building.
  • Relaxed Business Networking at Yamama Cafe (16 May at 9am). If you’re not a fan of the suit-and-tie approach to networking, try Yamama, where you can have an informal chat with fellow entrepreneurs – and enjoy some Middle Eastern delights.
  • Sustainability Meetup at Botanical Garden (16 May at 5:30pm). An eco-conscious event for sustainable founders to connect. Run by social entrepreneur, Fiona Shaw, the evening is billed as ‘People, Planet, Pints’. What she said.
  • The Impact Leadership Conference at Mercure Atlantic Hotel (25 May at 11am). Stuck in a career rut? Learn from various thought leaders, managers, and execs as they share practical tips on leadership style and how to grow your business.

Free business events in Birmingham this May

Birmingham, UK.

  • Leadership Matters at Aston Business School (7 May at 6pm). The final networking event in a series hosted by Birmingham’s largest business school, a panel of experts will air their views on how to lead through today’s SME challenges.
  • Business Networking Event at NatWest Accelerator Hub (8 May at 3pm) Jaanika Okk, Director of Time Assist, advises entrepreneurs on how to organise their daily tasks and overall business plan at every stage of the founder journey.
  • Brummies Networking at Grosvenors Casino (14 May at 11am) a monthly networking session for informal networking fuelled by free teas and coffees.
  • Design for Health & Med Tech Innovation at Conference Aston (16 May at 10am). Tailor-made for innovative startups designing a med tech product, the event dives into every aspect of bringing your groundbreaking concepts into reality.

Free business events in Nottingham this May


  • Coffee Club Nottingham at Homemade Cafe (2 May at 10am). A social coffee morning designed specifically for women entrepreneurs based in Nottingham to network and natter (and kids are also welcome!)
  • KuKu Connect Black Achievers Awards Launch at Hilton Hotel (8 May at 6pm) the awards will shine a spotlight on outstanding Black men and women in the region, including Business Person of the Year. Relaxed networking is encouraged.

Free business events in Cambridge this May

  • Taxation in the UK at King’s College (9 May at 5:30pm). Andriy Byelka, King’s EMBA student and dual-qualified lawyer, hosts a practical session on three of the most confusing SME tax topics: VAT, Capital Gains Tax, and Individual Tax.
  • BIPC Cambridge Coffee Morning at Cambridge Central Library (22 May at 10:30am). Designed to help sole traders feel less lonely, this informal catch-up welcomes anyone with a business idea to sell or a story to tell.
  • You can also become a Cambridge student for an hour by signing up to the many free lectures and talks available on the University of Cambridge event website

Free business events in Oxford this May

  • Lunch and Learn at Oxford Eagle Lab Main Space (15 May at 12pm). Networking or nourishing? Hosted by Barclays, this event dishes up local Oxford entrepreneurs for you to collaborate and socialise with over a delicious meal.
  • Hog Roast at Oxford Eagle Lab Main Space (16 May at 6pm) Are you sensing a theme here? Another Barclays food-centred event, this time entrepreneurs can enjoy a hog roast hosted by startup and small business legal experts, Mills & Reeve.
  • The Marketing Meetup IRL: Oxford at Grassroots (16 May at 6pm) a community event for local marketers to ditch the sales talk and form genuine connections.
  • Startup Huddle Networking Event at Oxford Business & IP Centre (16 May at 6pm). A monthly launchpad for new businesses. Founders present their venture to a supportive local network for valuable Q&A time with peers and business experts.
  • Google Digital Garage at Oxford Westgate Library (17 May at 10am). A free workshop run by the world’s largest information source. Founders will be taught about using AI for business, with networking breaks placed throughout the day.
  • Innovation Roadshow at The BioEscalator Oxford (21 May at 10am). Oxford is the second stop on the Innovate UK tour. With Director Monika Dabrowska as headliner, she’ll be on-hand for bespoke advice on writing an Innovate UK proposal.
  • Entrepreneurs should also check out the University of Oxford’s free public lectures for business tips and talks from the experts.

Free business events in Bristol this May


Throughout the month of May, companies based in Bristol can attend several two-hour intensive business workshops at the Bristol Business and IP Centre (BIPC) for free. These include:

Other free Bristol business events in May include:

  • South West Founders at Runway East (1 May at 6pm). Fancy a pizza-fuelled night of networking? South West Founders is a monthly meet-up, and informal support group, for tech entrepreneurs. This month’s theme is creative tech or “createch”.
  • Setting Up For Success at 2 Trinity Road (9 May at 10am) the last in a series of building block sessions for early-stage entrepreneurs, this event covers understanding customer needs and how to design the perfect elevator pitch.
  • Future Finance Exchange at Engine Shed (22 May at 9am). This month will be host to the first ever Future Finance networking session for Bristolian businesses. The morning begins with a networking breakfast, followed by a roundtable talk.

Free business events in Cardiff this May

Get away from the office and join fellow business owners for a free business workshop at Tramshed Tech. The innovation hub hosts a weekly half-day training session for those who are still learning the ropes of running a business – and yes, lunch is included.

Tickets are available for sessions on:

Other free Cardiff business events in May include:

  • Innovators Uncensored at Jacobs Roof Garden (9 May at 6pm). Hosted in a relaxed rooftop bar, attendees can unwind and chat to local entrepreneurs, suppliers, and potential mentors away from presentations and pitches.
  • Startup Club at BBC Cymru Wales (15 May at 9:30am). A fully-funded, two-day workshop for those who dream of being their own boss. Startup Club is a series of interactive workshops covering marketing, HR, business law, and more.

Free business events in Edinburgh

Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh

  • Trade, Business, Human Rights & Globalization Conference at 54 George St (12 May at 10am) a niche conference that’s filled with insights and networking opportunities for mission-led firms passionate about social justice and human rights.
  • CodeBase Edinburgh’s Presentation Club (22 May at 12:30pm) a supportive environment for tech startup founders to practise public speaking and pitching. Each session offers two five-minute slots for participants to fill and present on any topic.
  • Tech Leaders Forum at xDesign (30 May at 6pm). A must-attend event for innovative business owners, the evening promises networking, refreshments, and illuminating talks from major Scottish tech leaders including Brewdog.

Free business events in Glasgow


  • Techscaler Takeaways: Tales from Silicon Valley at Barclays Eagle Labs (7 May at 6pm) brings California and Glasgow together in a way you’ve never seen before. Scottish techpreneurs who worked at Silicon Valley will share their learnings and reflections for founders, with opportunities for networking and questions.
  • People, Planet, Pints at The Raven (8 May at 6pm). Like its sister event in Liverpool, this is another refreshing evening. Business owners in the sustainability sector can collaborate, chat, or just chill out over a cold one.
  • 8 Networking Coffee Morning APR at The Alchemist (15 May at 9:30am) free for first-time visitors, 8 coffee events are hosted by Glasgow’s own Colin. Testimonials highlight the group’s friendly nature and focus on building long-term relationships.
  • Business Coffee Morning at The Mitchell Library (31 at 10am) finishing the month off with a bang, this networking event run by the Business and IP Centre in Glasgow. Business owners are encouraged to share knowledge over breakfast rolls and tea.
Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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