With a growing economy and the upcoming arrival of the Channel 4 headquarters, Leeds is an increasingly appealing place to start a business.
As of 2018, there were 28,385 businesses in the city, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Here, we cover the essentials of living in Leeds as well as two entrepreneurs’ experiences of starting a business in the west Yorkshire city.
The population of Leeds was estimated at 784,846 in 2017, according the Office of National Statistics.
Its largest age group is 20-24 at ten per cent and a sizeable 12.6 per cent of the population were born outside the UK. The male-to-female ratio is pretty evenly split at 49.1 per cent male to 50.9 per cent female.
According to Rightmove, Leeds has an average house price of £195,371. In the past year house prices were up six per cent and nine per cent up on 2016 when they were £179,283 on average.
The number of visitors to Leeds shot up in 2017 – up 6.3 per cent when compared to 2016.
Police figures show that the total number of crime cases during the 12 months from December 2017-November 2018 was at 102,235. The total crime per 1000 population was 130.3 which is above England’s average of 84.4.
Quality of life
Overall, Leeds scores ‘very high’ on Numbeo’s Quality of Life Index.
More specifically, it scores very high on purchasing power, health care and climate while being moderate on safety, cost of living and pollution.
It scores low on the property price to income ratio and traffic commute time index.
Those who love nature will be glad to know that Leeds is one of the greenest cities in Europe. Two thirds of it is covered in woodlands and greenery.
Leeds is reportedly the busiest train station in the north of England. It has 17 platforms which can take you to London, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Hull. And of course, Wakefield and Bradford are in easy reach.
Leeds Bradford Airport is eight miles away from Leeds city centre and seven miles away from Bradford. The growing airport serves more than 72 direct destinations in 24 European countries. Eight places in the UK go to and from Leeds: Aberdeen, Belfast, Glasgow, Guernsey, Jersey, London Heathrow T5, Newquay and Southampton.
As you’d expect, bus services run regularly throughout the city.
What the entrepreneurs think
I’ve spoken to a couple of entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses in Leeds to hear about their experiences of getting grants, finding talent and other essentials.
Georgia Halston started her own marketing firm in Leeds called Halston Marketing. She saw a city with a growing economy and seized the opportunity.
I’d been working in marketing for around eight years in the Leeds agency scene when I set up Halston Marketing. It was November 2016, I had been in the city for around nine years and was aware of the growing economic climate. From start-ups right though to corporates, there’s a lot of business being done in the city and as we cater for B2B companies as well as and corporates, we saw a lot of opportunity here.
The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is really helpful for start-ups, they hold various events and are very vocal about what options there are out there for start-ups. We have advised many of our start-up and scale-up clients to do the same.
What about the challenge in finding local talent?
It’s quite time consuming for any start-up to find quality staff. Poring over CVs, phone calls, preparing for and carrying out interviews all take a lot of time – if you’re doing it right. My first two members of staff came to my company organically through a job advert on my site, then they seeded out through job sites and social media.
“It’s everyone’s job to ensure we’re keeping graduates in our cities with the prospect of great roles and opportunities”
When we started to rapidly grow, I needed staff to fill the gap and simply didn’t have the time to source the talent. The funny thing is, there are three universities in Leeds with a student population of around 60,000. Our major issue in the city, and in fact in the north, is the retention of talent in the region and making a case for graduates to resist the pull of the capital.
I’ve been working with a brand new talent sourcing company whose ethos is around just that. And although I have never used recruitment before and have actually in the past been staunchly against the concept, I could not be more happy with the talented, driven and intelligent members of staff that have been placed at Halston Marketing since we’ve been working with them.
There’s amazing talent in the north and it’s everyone’s job to cultivate that talent and ensure we’re keeping graduates in our cities with the prospect of great roles and opportunities.
Living and working in Leeds
I live in leafy North Leeds where it’s 20 minutes to the city centre and 20 minutes to our office which is on the A64 and perfectly situated to get straight onto the A1. The office itself is in a converted country manor and there are various gardens on the grounds which are great for my border collie who comes into work most days.
Local competition and the entrepreneur community
In terms of competition there are many world-class marketing agencies in Leeds with leading creatives at the helm. That being said, the market isn’t over-saturated when it comes to B2B marketing and corporate communications.
The entrepreneur community is absolutely booming. On any given night there may be two or three networking events to attend! The tech scene specifically is thriving in the city and it’s down to events and other platforms that encourage both innovation and collaboration in the city.
We’re not proud in Leeds – we all help each other out and work together to help the city thrive.
Simon Wadsworth rates Leeds as a top city for setting up a business. He tells us why chose it for his online reputation management business, Igniyte.
Leeds is a huge creative driving force and fast-growing city, making it a really exciting place to be. The digital tech sector is now worth £1 billion to Leeds and I’m proud that Igniyte is a part of it. The city also has a good employment catchment area.
I chose office space close to the main train station, which widens it further. In terms of transport, Leeds is well-connected, making it easy to travel across the country to visit our clients, and for them to visit us.
And most people I know like working in Leeds because, as well as being a great city to work in, it’s friendly and social. There is always something new happening in Leeds.
“It’s a thriving city, especially with all of the investment happening in the city centre”
We took out a loan in the early days from the Yorkshire Fund to help us grow, and there are plenty of grant and funding opportunities available. My tips for anyone looking to set up in Leeds are to visit Leeds City Council – there’s plenty of support and advice there and grants available. The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership is worth exploring too.
It’s a thriving city, especially with all of the investment happening in the city centre. In fact, just a couple of years ago Leeds was named the best city in Britain when it comes to quality of life.
As well as having a wonderful city to explore, we’re also in Yorkshire, which in my opinion is the best county in the country.
Want more from this series? Find out what you need to know about starting a business in Glasgow.