Starting a business in Central London

The heart of the capital, Central London boasts the largest number of small businesses in town – an ideal start-up location (if you can afford it)...

Where is Central London? Camden, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Westminster

Click the map to view other London regions

Why should you start a business in Central London?

With an established reputation as the core for the financial and business services sector and with head offices for trade, professional bodies, communications, publishing, advertising and media, Central London’s long-running history as the hub for large corporate and firms is shifting as it becomes the place-to-be for small businesses.

Number of new start-ups (2014): 29,125  – see how this compares

While Westminster and Southwark have always been viewed as less ‘hip’ areas for new businesses; given its location as the home of Parliament and the mayor  of London, this perception is changing with several fast-growth companies starting up or relocating to the area including onefinestay, the Craft Beer Co, Borrowmydoggy, BioBean, and even Startups’ very own offices in Borough.

Central London also continues to evolve with areas such as Holborn in Camden starting to become a vibrant commercial district. Known as “Midtown”, the area east of Oxford Street is set to become the next Shoreditch with a host of cool new hotels, restaurateurs and emerging and established businesses moving to the area. Google and Mindshare have offices in the Central St Giles building while leading entertainment firms including DreamWorks and Warner Brothers have moved to refurbished developments on Kingsway, and multi-million international start-ups such as Blippar are also based locally. The arrival of Crossrail in 2017 is estimated to bring millions more visitors and workers to the area so start-up entrepreneurs looking to buck the trend should act quickly if they want to be part of the upcoming Midtown business hub.

Number of new start-ups per sq km: 168  – see how this compares

As the nucleus of the capital, it goes without saying that Central London has the best transport links with national rail services from London Waterloo and Victoria, links from Kings Cross St Pancras and Euston International and access to all underground lines including Northern, Bakerloo, Overground and the District line to get to the south of the river into Lambeth and Southwark. The ongoing London Bridge redevelopment, funded by the Thames Link programme as part of a £6bn government investment, will also enhance connections and travel routes. Intended to expand the station to the size of Wembley Stadium, it’s expected that the station improvements will allow up to 18 Thameslink trains to run through London Bridge every hour which is good news for start-ups looking for for a base that will enable them to travel to meet clients nationwide.

Although Central London is drawing in more people as a growing property hotspot (see quality of life), the area still has a wealth of available office space; especially when it comes to co-working and flexible offices for start-ups in the initial growth stage. The Workspace Group has dozens of offices to let including stylish office space The Biscuit Factory as do Regus, while Co-Work in Southwark and Club Workspaces in Bankside and London Bridge offer a range of hot desks, meeting rooms and flexible space. For creative entrepreneurs, Camden has a wealth of office stock with innovative spaces such as the Collective Hub; which even has the start-up staple of a ping pong table and is designed to support the growth of creative businesses in the area. For social ventures and social entrepreneurs, Impact Hub Westminster offers a collaborative environment to support businesses with a social and environmental impact. New start-up space is also being built on a regular basis; in Southwark The Office Group are currently building a major office block on Borough High Street which will have a mix of individual offices, meeting rooms, lounges and even a gym studio.

Talent in Central London

business talent 60.7%: Working age population with NVQ Level 4 and above (2015)
£690.81: Average full-time weekly earnings (2015)

Central London has the largest percentage of working age population with degrees and NVQ equivalents. A staggering 60.7% of the population possess NVQ Level 4 qualifications or above which makes the area a great resource for finding skilled talent, particularly as it’s home to number of leading universities including University College London (UCL); part of the Russell Group, London School of Commerce and London South Bank University.

However, as with the City of London, finding affordable talent is difficult as average weekly salaries pivot around £690.81 – the second largest salary bracket for London and over £50 above London average. There are a number of universities and colleges that can help get around this problem by providing apprentices, trainees and interns as well as help with graduate employment. For instance The University of Westminster hosts on-site events for businesses to promote vacancies and UCL’s enterprise arm also works closely with businesses to help them collaborate with its 35,000 students.

Southwark Council has also recently launched a “groundbreaking” scheme – the Southwark Employment and Enterprise Development Scheme (SEEDS) – which offers wage incentives and a package of mentoring and business support to microbusinesses and small businesses. Micro businesses that qualify can receive up to 50% wage contribution while small and medium firms (up to 250 employees) can receive up to 35% wage contribution.

Business support in Central London

Accelerators and incubators

Central London has hatched some of the UK’s largest and most well regarded accelerators and incubators for businesses across a range of industries. Technology start-ups can apply for the Imperial Innovations incubator in South Kensington which has 12 laboratories and 22 offices,and Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator which specialises in helping tech for good start-ups. Entrepreneurs looking to start a marketing or advertising start-up should look at entering the Collider accelerator, education entrepreneurs can apply for the Emerge Education accelerator in Camden, hardware start-ups can access eco-machines incubator and there’s even an accelerator for independent spirit brands; Distill Ventures. Major brands also run accelerator schemes in the Central London area including Telefonica’s Wayra accelerator in Camden and the Red Bull Amplifier accelerator in Southwark.

Funding

Funding is spread across London so its difficult to pinpoint finance options that are specific to Central London but when it comes to council and government funding, small business grants are hard to come by. For businesses looking for angel investment, this is available via Angels in the City which works in partnership with London Business Angels.

Survival rates (2009-2014): 37.6%

Events

Given Central London’s thriving business community, it’s not hard for new entrepreneurs in the area to find relevant events and workshops. Every borough council runs events of some sort to support businesses; Tower Hamlets Council holds a range of events and workshops with upcoming events including seminars on women in growth, the ‘secrets to building a billion dollar company’ and workshops on networking and digital marketing – with the vast majority of these events taking place at the Idea Store in Whitechapel.

Libraries and resources

Central London boroughs have some of the best resources for business with Westminster’s libraries particularly useful for data, market research and business information. Westminster Reference Library has a major business information point (BIP) which offers reference material on marketing, tax etc., access to current and past news coverage, and market reports and industry overviews from Keynote, Cobra and Datamonitor. Camden is also home to one of the UK’s biggest business libraries; The British Library’s Business and IP Centre in St Pancras which can help with networking, planning, copyright and IP, and free industry guides.

By starting a business in Central London, start-up entrepreneurs also have access to a burgeoning business support network with organisations such as the Business Bootcamp in Camden which offers a series of business start-up training programmes and Camden Means Business; which has support and mentoring opportunities to help firms start and grow.

Quality of life in Central London

quality of life 27.0mbps:Average broadband speed (2014)
£847,037:Average house prices (Apr 2016)

Given that Central London comprises Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, it’s hardly surprising to find that Central London is the most expensive area to live. April 2016 Land Registry figures show that average house prices for the area are £847,037 but it does vary by borough – Kensington and Chelsea house prices are the steepest at £1,380,076 whereas Tower Hamlets is the most affordable area in the sub-region with house prices averaging £547,916.

When it comes to crime, Westminster has the highest crime levels for the whole of London – in 2015 there were an alarming 48,321 crimes committed. The total number of crimes committed in Central London is also highest for the city with approximately 207,280 total crimes according to Metropolitan Police statistics. Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea have the lowest crime levels, 20,416 and 18,779 total crimes respectively. If you’re looking for affordability and a safer area then Tower Hamlets looks to be a promising option.

There’s no questions Central London leads the way when it comes to cultural attractions, restaurants and things to do. A bubbling hive of activity; the area is the home of the National Gallery, Tate Gallery, The Shard, the headquarters of the National Ballet and Opera, London Zoo and the beautiful South Bank and London Eye. Shopping and retail is one of Central London’s highlights with Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Carnaby Street and for fresh food produce look no further than Borough Market by London Bridge. For nightlife and a lively crowd then Camden is the place to head to of an evening with the Electric Ballroom, Koko and Camden Roundhouse for live music, Leicester Square for bars and nightclubs, and in the day The Stables, Camden lock, and Camden market are always popular areas. In Lambeth, Clapham Common and Clapham Old Town are recommended for bars and clubs as there are a range of options to suit all budgets including raucous old school nightclub and disco Infernos and the more upmarket Hed Kandi and Aquum. In Westminster, Soho is recommended for entrepreneurs looking to unwind and party as it has some of the best nightclubs in the city such as Cafe de Paris and Penthouse, or take a short walk to Chinatown for a bite to eat – there are around 80 restaurants inspired by the Far East.

Speaking of food, Central London is also home to some of London’s most respected and well know restaurants which are ideal when trying to impress clients such as The Palomar, The Dairy and GymKhana. If you really want to wow for a business meeting then Kensington and Chelsea also has an array of award-winning restaurants such as Barts, Juju, and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

Central London champion: What a real business thinks

Snaptrip

Snaptrip croppedSnaptrip’s founder shares why, despite high rent, Central London is great for inspiration and vibrancy.

Read its start-up story here.

Comments

(will not be published)