Newcastle has long been the location for a weekend away – it’s also a terrific spot to start a business.
We go beyond the Metro Centre to find out what it’s like to live and work in the city of Newcastle.
Centre for Cities has ranked Newcastle within the top 10 city centres in the UK for growth in the 21st century, coming 7th for jobs and population growth.
The report shows that the population of Newcastle more than doubled between 2002 and 2015, growing by 112%. Job numbers grew by 29% between 1998 and 2015.
According to nomisweb, the estimated total population of Newcastle in 2017 was 295,800, with more males (149,400) than females (146,400).
As of the year ending September 2018, the overall crime rate in Newcastle upon Tyne was on average higher than other English cities, second only to Manchester. It’s currently sitting at 145.05 crimes per 1,000 people.
According to Rightmove, the average house price was £184,353 for semi-detached properties and £340,569 for detached properties. It has an overall average price of £203,165.
More than 18 million people visited Newcastle and Gateshead in 2017, a 3% rise on the year before. It’s the fourth-largest business sector in the north east, contributing £1.62bn to the regional economy.
Quality of life
Like other major UK cities, Newcastle rates highly on Numbeo’s Quality of Life Index. It also rates very high on the health care and climate indices.
Central Station allows you to travel anywhere in the UK. Northern trains link Newcastle and Sunderland city centres. You’ve got two trains an hour to Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as hourly services to Carlisle, Leeds and Manchester airport. There are also regular services to Sheffield, Birmingham, the south west and south coast and a half-hourly service to London King’s Cross with a journey time of around three hours.
The Tyne and Wear Metro can take you all around the Newcastle and Gateshead region. including the airport and Central Station.
You can cross the Tyne in just seven minutes using Shields Ferry, covering areas in both north and south Tyneside.
Newcastle International Airport is around 6.5 miles from the city centre. It flies around the UK and offers a direct service to London City airport. It also goes to Europe and other locations around the world including Egypt, Lapland and Orlando.
As for buses, there are connecting services around the whole Tyne and Wear area, taking you to Gateshead, Sunderland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside.
Newcastle City Council partners with peer-to-peer lender, Funding Circle, to promote crowdfunding as a way to promote business growth. To qualify, you must:
- Have been trading for at least two years
- Have an annual turnover of over £50,000
- Not have suffered losses in the past three consecutive three years
What entrepreneurs think about setting up in Newcastle
This only really gives you an at-a-glance picture. We spoke to three entrepreneurs to find out more about the businesses they started in Newcastle.
Mike Brockman’s first Newcastle-based business, Insurethebox, was such a success that he started his second, ThingCo, in a building right next to it.
ThingCo has an office in the city of London – you’ve got to be there for activities. Our main operation is in Newcastle, though. We’ve just moved from Hoult’s Yard (another hub for small businesses) to Quorum Business Park in the past couple of months.
My first business was an insurance company called Insurethebox, which was also based in Quorum Business Park. Last year I sold my remaining shares to a Japanese company which has a very strong relationship with Toyota. I had about 350 people working there.
I must confess – when I set up that business ten years ago, I’d never been to Newcastle in my whole life. I’d always liked Geordies. I’m a Londoner, which is completely opposite in a sense. I live just outside of the city, but I was born in the east.
I’ve known many colleagues over the years who come from Newcastle and they’re always friendly, happy-go-lucky people.
When I was talking about my first business and said I needed a contact centre, people say it’s very important to have the right tone of voice. A lot of people would say Edinburgh is the best place to go to. Then someone randomly said to me: “No, you must go to Newcastle. These people are very friendly.”
I went up there for the first time and fell in love with the place. There’s just something about Geordies. It’s not the wealthiest place in the world, but everyone is happy and just take things day-by-day.
“I went up there for the first time and fell in love with the place”
When I started the business, guys and girls there were fantastic in the way they interacted with customers. My first business was a massive success. The office for my new business is right next to my old business. I wanted to do have the same success with my second business.
Sourcing local (and loyal) talent
I’d recommend a business in Newcastle to absolutely anyone to build a loyal employee base.
As my first business was an insurance company, I had all sorts of people involved in that: we had a big IT department, HR, people handling claims and underwriters – so there’s a very diverse set of skills required.
We didn’t have any issues attracting the right people. My philosophy is if you’ve got the right type of culture and you’re the right type of company, people will want to come and work for you. Make it attractive and you’ll be the kind of company that people want to go to.
Youngsters and apprenticeships are things that I’m passionate about and that ThingCo has been successful with.
When you start off as an apprentice, you’re in the bottom roles – maybe on the phone to customers. All my apprentices have progressed in different ways into different departments very quickly. It’s great to shape young people and work out how they could best fit in and motivate them to go in any direction that they want to.
There are a number of other insurance companies in the area. It keeps me on my toes to make sure I’m better than the guys down the road!
Quorum Business Park (which is slightly on the outskirts) is a great place to be and they provide a bus from the city centre.
When I started the first business, the local council did grants. We took them up on it in the early days.
My focus on the second was just to get it started. I’m fortunate enough because my first was venture was a success and I reinvested it into the next business.
What about the entrepreneur community in Newcastle?
The city has a little local council-funded place to promote young entrepreneurs and give them some office space right in the middle of the city. It’s in an environment where there are other young entrepreneurial people and everything is subsidised. There are a lot of facilities in Newcastle which promote entrepreneurs.
All I can say is that everyone has a positive attitude to life. I don’t know what it is – I just try and get there as much as possible. People seem to take themselves less seriously which I think is a good attitude to have.
People are far too serious these days! Maybe they should all live in Newcastle for a while.
Sean Evennett is the managing director of Bespoke Interiors. He talks about competition’s effect on innovation and the abundance of local talent from university graduates.
I was working in the kitchen interiors sector for years, overseeing installations for local kitchen design and retail companies. Having done this for years for someone else, I decided it was time to become my own boss and expand the business beyond installing kitchens.
We specialise in bespoke-made fitted furniture installations for every room in the house.
We’re fortunate to offer high-quality service without having as high expenses as we would if we were based in London or Manchester.
Funding and grant opportunities
Aside from the usual government grants that can be given to businesses anywhere in the UK, Newcastle also has its own range of private grants and funding groups that entrepreneurs can apply for.
Companies like Ignite and Entrepreneurial Spark focus on providing education and small start-up grants to young people with business plans. The North of Tyne Combined Authority occasionally meets to choose particularly noticeable new businesses that have made an impact on the city. They often provide these firms with a grant in the hopes that they’ll support the community in return.
Newcastle’s large tech sector is always expanding, making it an excellent environment for tech-related business ideas to flourish. Many are given grants by larger companies in return for cooperation or exclusivity towards a specific part of their work, especially if the start-up can offer a service that makes their work easier.
The fact that the sector is male-dominated means that there are multiple smaller funds that support businesses with a balanced or female-dominated employee base.
Being a family-run business with more than 80 years of combined experience, we are fortunate to have the right people with us. Our team consists of fine artisans all from Newcastle and the North East area that are high-grade trained.
All of our designers have a joinery background which makes our outlook on design unique. They have hands-on experience of manufacturing and installing kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms.
There are two main universities in Newcastle and a couple of others nearby such as Durham University, Sunderland University and Teesside University. This ensures that there is an abundance of young and talented people in Newcastle who are eager to start their careers.
What is the competition like in the area? How about the entrepreneur community?
Some industries are more competitive than others in Newcastle. The market is competitive enough to keep innovation and customer services at a high standard. However, it also isn’t too competitive where new businesses can enter the market.
The closure of the Campus North last year was a massive blow to the entrepreneur community in Newcastle. It was fantastic to see it growing with talented entrepreneurs. Luckily, I believe the tenants were offered a new co-working space elsewhere in Newcastle.
Dan Young (left), co-founder of 40 Kola talks about being in the food and drink sector and collaborating with other small businesses.
Newcastle is becoming a melting pot of craft-focused and independent businesses. There’s a real consumer appetite for innovative and unique offerings from companies. This is across our sector in food and drink as well as other sectors.
Kieran and I both grew up in the area, so we thought it made the most sense to test our concept in a market that we know before growing outside the North East. There’s a real appetite for local products which has really helped our business grow at such a strong rate.
Funding and grant opportunities
Natwest has an accelerator scheme which is hugely supportive and includes shared office space.
We’ve also had some great support through Newcastle University’s Startup scheme as graduates of the university. There’s a vast number of schemes available for grants and funding based on specific sectors – be sure to really do some research because there’s lots of support out there.
How’s life in Newcastle?
Having such a vibrant mix of places in the city is fantastic.
“A huge amount of local talent is keen to collaborate on new ideas and projects”
Being within easy reach of the coast gives even more options, from surfing to exploring the Northumberland coastline, you’ll never be short of things to do.
There’s a huge amount of local talent who are always keen to collaborate on new ideas and projects. We regularly work with other local businesses across a range of sectors; we could be doing anything from sharing contacts from our network to collaborating on a new product launch.
We’ve found that businesses in the area all work together very closely and there’s a real sense of community. We find it’s always best to work with local businesses as a market with everyone working closely together as it’s greater than each business working alone. If the market as a whole grows, then everyone will benefit and see growth as a result.
Ben Bennett is the managing director of Luminous Group, a mixed, augmented and virtual reality application and content development platform. He talks about fighting for local talent and the joys of living in the North East.
Having grown up in the North East, it was a no-brainer when it came to starting the business here. The city is vibrant with lots of potential and I had plenty of support from friends and family.
Life in the North East is second to none. Having ran offices in London I’ve always looked forward to going back home to Newcastle.
The city is buzzing with innovative businesses, exciting nightlife and lush Northumberland country. With a young family, I spend many weekends exploring the North East culture as well as the bonus of a fantastic coastline just a short drive away. There is always something to do!
Funding and Brexit
Even with lots of potential, funding for North East SMEs has been historically sparse. With the increasing uncertainty surrounding Brexit especially, the North East has recently received funding from the North East Venture Fund.
The fund arrived after the demise of the Jeremie fund delivering £120m of equity investments and loans to firms in the North East which will now allow Newcastle’s tech and innovation-led SMEs to thrive over the coming years.
Attracting the right talent
Many skilled specialists are moving to London. As a relatively new tech company in the North East, it’s a continuous battle to acquire the specialist skills needed from the local area.
We have attracted high-quality developers from the likes of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Leeds – we’ve even sponsored our first overseas employee from India this year.
“As a relatively new tech company, it’s a continuous battle to acquire the specialist skills needed”
Our Universities such as Newcastle and Teesside are doing a fantastic job is creating a buzz around specific industries in the North East, including virtual reality. We’re excited to see more specialists being attracted to the never-ending potential here in Newcastle.
Businesses in the North East need to punch that little bit harder than our counterparts in the south to be heard, which leads to mutual respect between our competitors and fellow local businesses.
This gives Newcastle a warm, community feel. By working together smaller businesses in Newcastle we have a great opportunity to bring larger national projects back to our region.
It’s always wonderful to meet a fellow Geordie or someone from the North East at a conference, especially if it’s overseas. There’s a general camaraderie in the North East that you don’t get in other parts of the country.