Ever wondered how to start a business in Glasgow?
With its growing creative and funding opportunities, Scotland’s second city is becoming ever-more appealing to entrepreneurs.
Here we look into funding options, local competition, the cost of living and more.
Despite having a growth rate of under 0.5 per cent, below the national UK average of five per cent, the city is growing faster than predicted. Figures from 2017 show a population of 621,000 and that number is rising.
According to Rightmove, the overall average house price in Glasgow is £174,531. In the past year, prices have gone up by five per cent but are down 35 per cent on 2006 when prices were £267,430 on average.
Last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a record rise in international tourism to Glasgow by 17 per cent to 3.2 million while spending went up 2.3 per cent to £2.3 billion.
Growth outperformed the Scottish average, with most visitors coming from Europe and north America.
The total number of crimes has dropped. In 2007/08 the total number of crimes was recorded at just below 70,000, falling to a little under 44,000 by 2016/17.
Quality of life
Glasgow is doing well on Numbeo’s Quality of Life Index, scoring ‘very high’ on purchasing power, health care and climate. It scores moderately on safety, cost of living and traffic commute time. Sadly, it scores much lower on pollution levels.
To give you an idea of day-to-day living costs, a regular cappuccino costs £2.54 while a 330ml bottle of water costs 67p. A lot of people make their way around the city on foot but a one-way ticket on local transport costs £2.30.
Connections are strong within Glasgow as well as other parts of the UK and the world.
Train-wise, you’ve got Glasgow Central which will take you to Edinburgh and other destinations around Scotland as well as regular services to London Euston, travelling via Lancaster and Preston.
As for airports, you’ve got Glasgow Airport near Paisley and the smaller Glasgow Prestwick, located around 32 miles from the city centre.
There are also plenty of city bus service and the subway to get around the city itself.
How the entrepreneurs see it
Of course, statistics don’t reflect the actual day-to-day of running a small business in Glasgow. We speak to three entrepreneurs to find out their experiences.
Andrew Vincent is co-founder of Nu Blvck alongside Becca Flory. The fashion label is passionate about finding local talent and giving independent designers a platform.
When we first came up with the idea for Nu Blvck we were actually based in Boston (Becca and I met on a programme called the Saltire Foundation Fellowship, which sees participants spend four months at Babson College in Boston, US).
We’ve always had the goal of creating a brand with a global customer base and this will never change. Glasgow is home for me and there is a creative and entrepreneurial buzz about the city, so it made good sense to start here.
Fashion brands often gravitate to the commerce centres of London, Paris and the like. We really liked the idea of creating a business in Scotland that stands for something. This in turn will create opportunities for creative people here in our own cities as opposed to people graduating and heading down to London.
What grants are available for start-up businesses?
There are many grants available for small businesses across Scotland, which are mainly administered through Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise. Some are available for start-up stage businesses and others for those a little further along in their journey, but it’s always worth keeping your eyes open for what’s out there.
We’ve been fortunate to receive funding through the Scottish EDGE, a Dragons’ Den style pitching competition. Other than financial support there are great entrepreneurial networks and organisations in Glasgow that have helped.
Most recently, we’ve been accepted on to the an accelerator programme which gives us six months of mentorship, office space on St Vincent Street and access to a vast network of people and opportunities. We’re currently raising £100,000 in investment to scale our brand, so this has come at a great time.
Talent is something we’re passionate about.
With regard to fashion talent, there are over 800 design graduates leaving fashion courses across Scotland each year, many of whom move to London or further afield. We see NuBlvck.com as a way to give emerging designers and makers a platform to find new customers and make a name for themselves. This year we plan to expand our networks and work with designers from around the world too.
However, given the wealth of world class art and design universities in Scotland, we wanted to start here.
For our creative content and marketing campaigns, we also work with a team of amazing creative freelancers on photography, styling, hair and make-up. We’ve worked with some great people on our journey so far and there certainly isn’t a shortage of talent on this front.
As we grow our business, we look forward to creating a vibrant, exciting global brand with its roots firmly planted here in Glasgow. The one problem may be attracting the world’s best who traditionally have gone to London or New York.
Like all major cities, there are varying styles and costs of office space. We spent our early days in the artist collective called Many Studios – just to the east of the city – which was affordable(ish) in the early days.
“The one problem may be attracting the world’s best who traditionally have gone to London or New York”
This part of the city is slowly becoming one of Glasgow’s more gentrified creative hubs which is great. Having since moved into the city centre, we’re enjoying office space right in the heart of the city which is amazing.
That being said, there are plenty of co-working spaces in Glasgow so if you just need a desk, there are lots of affordable options. The ever-growing coffee culture in the city also offers a plethora of nice spots to work.
There are lots of great brands across all segments of the market operating in the city. We don’t really think of any of them as competitors as our customers are based all over the world. In a $3 trillion global fashion industry, there is certainly room for us all.
As a brand that put collaborations with other exciting designers and brands at the heart of our monthly collections, we’re always interested in working with brands who share our ethos. Fortunately, there are many like-minded brands in Glasgow.
What about the rest of the local entrepreneur community?
There’s lots going on. Glasgow has so many different networks who often host events and meet-ups.
As someone who’s lived here all of my life, I think this is something that’s really changed for the better over the past five years, with new places popping up everywhere. From my experience so far, it’s a great city to start and run a company, and hopefully grow a global brand.
Sidharth Dugar runs fintech start-up, Accountables. He praises his university’s entrepreneurial network for how they have supported his business since it started.
I came to Glasgow to pursue my Masters in business administration from the Strathclyde Business School. The University of Strathclyde is known for nurturing entrepreneurial talent and quite rightfully so; I found massive support in Strathclyde’s Entrepreneurial Network.
I realised Glasgow is a hub for lot of start-ups, and Scotland in particular is very supportive of fintech – just the right platform that I was looking for.
Several grants like By-design, SMART and R&D Grants are quite popular among start-ups generally.
There are also lot of competitions to promote innovation in various categories which can act as big validation for early stage start-ups.
Our business model relies on hiring talent all over the globe and connecting them with businesses requiring financial services. Until now we have had good support from local people and believe local talent and employees will become an integral part of our team.
There is lot of support for new businesses when it comes to office space. There are several incubators and accelerators that provide fully-funded office space with dedicated workstations.
I’ve been given an office space in the city centre of Glasgow, and should I require at any stage to look for a bigger office, I am positive that I will get such space and necessary support at a nominal price.
Competition in the local fintech sector
There is a lot happening in the fintech sector, particularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I have met with lot of fintech start-ups and I would not consider any of them as my competitor.
“I have met with lot of fintech start-ups and I would not consider any of them as my competitor”
Rather, I find there is so much possible synergy as most of these start-ups are working in a niche of their own, and many times complement each other, especially for a business like mine.
I have interacted with entrepreneurs in networking events like S100. This is a trademark biannual event organised by Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network where they invite 100 entrepreneurs from different industries to come together under one roof and network with each other while they put several shortlisted start-ups on showcase and allow them to pitch.
In all, it is for the support and the community which made me incorporate my company here in Glasgow and I look forward to making the most of it.
Fergus Moore is the co-founder of Revive, a start-up which uses coffee grounds from restaurants and cafés to make products like plant food. He tells us how Glasgow is for an environmentally friendly start-up.
I never specifically made the decision to start a business in Glasgow. It was more that I wanted to start a business and happened to live here. However, in hindsight I’m glad that I do live here as there is a fantastic network of entrepreneurs, support and funding in this city.
Getting hold of funding for an eco business
There is a huge amount of funding and grant support available to start-ups in Scotland in general. Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise have been pivotal in getting Revive off the ground through small pots of funding. Revive have just received a large grant from Zero Waste Scotland to get our operations off the ground here.
If someone has an idea that would help Scotland reduce its waste or carbon emissions, Zero Waste Scotland have grant funds available that could help. There are then funding competitions which offer the chance to win no-strings-attached funding.
Finally, there is a strong and ever-growing network of investors in Scotland looking for new and exciting business opportunities. All in all, Scotland has a huge amount of funding available.
“There is a strong and ever-growing network of investors in Scotland looking for new and exciting business opportunities”
We are currently based in the Enterprise Hub at the University of Strathclyde. They offer early stage start-ups, free hot desking space and collaborative workspaces as well as a few paid offices.
Then there are a number of shared workspaces which are a great and affordable option for one-person teams who just need a desk and Wi-Fi. They also are great for fostering collaboration between start-ups to help overcome problems. There are also a number of serviced office options in Glasgow.
For a start-up however, I think that it’s better to avoid the expense of an office until it becomes essential. I would advocate working from home or in a free space for as long as you possibly can.
The growth of the eco sector
There seem to be more and more start-ups with some kind of environmental impact aspect to them. In terms of competitiveness though, I’d say that most of these new companies are appearing to solve specific environmental problems.
With Revive, we have focused just on coffee ground waste rather than the broader issue of food waste or waste in general. This means there’s plenty of space for new start-ups to find their own little niche to set up and try to make an impact. So, while the number of eco start-ups is exploding, I’d say there’s plenty of room for more.
In my experience, there is a great community of entrepreneurs in Glasgow. Scotland generally has an incredible history of innovation and entrepreneurship.
For such a small country to have had such a huge impact throughout history is truly inspiring. The number of people with entrepreneurial spirit in Glasgow I would say is comparable to that of Silicon Valley, Berlin, London and any of the other top communities of practice in the world.
In Glasgow, the University of Strathclyde plays a pivotal role in the entrepreneurial community. They hold frequent networking events; they shout as loud as they can about their spinouts and graduate start-ups.