Revealed: the most entrepreneurial location in the UK (and it’s not London)

Entrepreneurship is booming across the country, but which region wears the hustle capital of the UK crown?

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Helena Young
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Wales has been named the hustle capital of the UK, as a new report highlights the regions showing the biggest levels of entrepreneurship.

Small business advice service, Informi used official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to compare business growth percentages, new startups, and self-employment rates. It then crunched this data to reveal the hustling capital of the UK.

Wales took first place displaying an increase of 5.2% in the number of private sector businesses starting between 2021 to 2022. Second-place is Northern Ireland, with a 3.5% increase in new businesses.

According to Informi, London (typically assumed to be the nation’s business metropolis) slips down the rankings to land in fourth place. Just 0.5% of new private sector businesses launched in the Big Smoke in 2022.

England lags behind as Celtic talent tops the business charts

Wales’ huge increase in the number of private sector firms was complemented by an impressive self-employment rate of 15.9%. It also saw a business growth rate of 0.9%.

The South West comes out top for English regions, and third place overall for Hustle Capitals. Nearly 20% of the area’s working population was self-employed in early 2022.

Below is a table showing the full results for all twelve regions:

RankRegionSelf Employment RatesPrivate Sector Businesses StartedBusiness Growth Rate
1Wales15.9% 5.2%0.9%
2Northern Ireland13.3%3.5%1.6%
3South West18.8%2.3%0.7%
5North East11.2%0.5%1%
6West Midlands12.6%-1.9%1%
7East Midlands13.3%0.2%0.1%
8Yorkshire and the Humber13.4%-7.2%0.9%
9East of England15.2%-4.6%0.5%
10South East16.5%-3.7%-1.8%
11North West13.2%-3%0.1%

That London came fourth might seem surprising given its reputation as the UK’s commercial centre. Nonetheless, record-high business rates, combined with the cost of living crisis, have made the capital an unaffordable location for budding business owners.

The UK’s shift to remote work, particularly amongst sole traders, is also to blame. Renters left London at the highest rate in a decade last year, as entrepreneurs no longer had to be based in the capital to do business.

Help for local entrepreneurs has also grown alongside regional business populations. The Informi data points to the Welsh government’s SME support service, Business Wales which offers advice, training, and levelling up support for those looking to grow their startups.

Reflecting on the findings, Huw Moxon, Marketing Manager at Informi, says: “This data emphasises the importance of region-specific support systems and initiatives that enable entrepreneurship and business growth.

“As the UK faces fresh economic challenges, these findings hopefully serve as inspiration and guidance for entrepreneurs seeking to establish and develop their businesses.”

Associated reading:

Low confidence could still be holding back regional businesses

Despite the obvious increase in the number of regional UK businesses, Startups’ research indicates that local business owners are statistically less likely to back themselves when it comes to winning awards.

Data from the Startups 100 Index, the UK’s longest-running annual ranking of the top 100 new businesses, reveals that regional startups have historically avoided submitting their business.

Likely this is due to the self-fulfilling prophecy that the UK business landscape is too London-centric. In total, 59% of applications to last year’s index came from companies that were based in the capital.

In Wales, which Informi identified as the top location for new businesses, just 3.1% of local businesses submitted their startup. Northern Ireland made up just 1% of entries.

Bottom of the pile of the Informi data was Scotland and the North West. However, our judges found plenty of talent from both of these areas including Lancashire-based, The Modern Milkman, which came in fourth in our ranking.

Low confidence amongst regional business owners could be due to a lack of finance. Earlier this year, Startups research uncovered that London-based businesses get, on average, eight times more funding than companies based outside the M25.

Regional businesses encouraged to apply to the Startups 100 Index 2024

We want more regional talent to submit their startup to next year’s list. To help, we’re making our judging process more inclusive than ever this year. Every entry will be marked for:

By shifting the focus away from funding and finance, we hope to ensure we celebrate the best UK companies – not those closest to Canary Wharf. Every entry will be marked for:

💪 Strength of concept (is your idea unique?)

💡 Innovation (how is your idea disrupting the market?)

🏆 External validation (any significant achievements eg. notable partners or clients)

📏 Size of opportunity (what ambitions do you have in terms of scale-up?)

💰 Finance (how much revenue have you generated from what amount of funding?)

Applying means you’ll be in with a chance of being named one of the top new UK businesses in 2024, and can sit alongside prestigious alumni Deliveroo and Monzo.

Are you, or do you know of, a talented new business owner based outside of London? Then apply to the Startups 100 Index 2024.

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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