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Best and worst UK cities to be a business owner in 2024

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Best and worst UK cities to be a business owner in 2024
With many different factors affecting which UK cities are best-suited to being a business owner, from commute times to the cost of co-working spaces, these are the best and worst in 2024
When it comes to setting up a business, location is everything. Where business owners decide to call home impacts not just their personal lives, but the company itself. This decision affects things like income, employee satisfaction, customer interest and work-life balance, all of which need to be considered for a successful business. So, where is the happiest place to be for business owners in the UK?
To find out, the business credit card experts at Capital on Tap analysed top UK cities to discover which location is best for business owners, looking at things like commute times, residents’ happiness levels, and the cost of co-working spaces.

The happiest places to live as a business owner

1. Luton

Train at Luton station
With an impressive happiness score of 7.64 out of 10, Luton tops the list for the happiest place to live as a business owner in the UK.
Residents here report a high level of personal wellbeing, suggesting happy business owners as well as happy employees—a recipe for a productive work environment.
"Luton has happy business owners and employees—a recipe for a productive work environment"
Not only this, but residents are working around 32.8 hours per week, more than three hours less than the UK’s average 36.4 working hours, suggesting a good work-life balance.
A square metre of retail space costs just 98p per year, the cheapest price overall. Business owners also benefit from affordable co-working spaces, with costs coming to around £144 per month.

2. Preston

Preston comes next on the list, with the highest resident happiness score of all cities analysed, at 7.79.
Commuting is also a little cheaper than Luton, with a monthly pass costing around £51, though residents travel for around six hours and 20 minutes each week to and from work.

3. Southend-on-Sea

In third place is Southend-on-Sea. Those living in the coastal city only tend to work 31.2 hours per week, which is the second lowest amount of any city analysed, and residents have a happiness score of 7.31.

The least happy places to be as a business owner

1. London

People waiting for a tube train in London
London is the least happy place for small business owners in the UK to live. And it’s no wonder, when residents are spending eight hours per week commuting—a whole work day!
"London sees residents spending eight hours per week commuting—a whole work day!"
A monthly travel pass in the city is the most expensive, at £182, and co-working spaces costs are also high, at £331 per month.

2. Derby

Derby has come as the second least happy location. It costs £376 per month to rent a co-working space here, the most expensive figure overall. To lease a retail space costs businesses £15.49.
Residents here will spend less time commuting than other areas of the UK, with employees spending around five hours and 20 minutes each week travelling.

3. Edinburgh

Edinburgh comes next for the least happy location in the UK for business owners. Leasing retail space costs business owners £17.69 per square metre per year. Co-working spaces, at £175 per month, are a little more affordable for businesses.

The best city for commuting


Belfast street and people
Belfast is the best city for commuting, with workers’ travel times averaging just under an hour each week, over ten hours less than those commuting in Edinburgh. Plymouth comes next, at just over five hours, closely followed by Southend-on-Sea, at around six hours of travel per week.
Edinburgh has the longest commute time of all, with employees spending 11.5 hours per week travelling, over ten hours more than Belfast.

4 Top tips for finding the best location for your business

Head of Commercial Operations at Capital on Tap, Neel Sapat, advises business owners on how to find the best location to set up their company.

1. Make sure your location is accessible 

Neel says, “No matter what type of business you have, you need to think about how accessible a location might be. Think about where might be best for potential customers, clients, suppliers and employees, and then work from there.”

2. Assess your competition

According to Neel, scoping out competition is a key tip: “It might be that having lots of competitors in the area means there’s already an established customer base. If you’re offering something unique to the market, this might be beneficial as you can pick up new customers quickly.
"Having competitors in the area might mean there's already an established customer base"
"However, if it looks like the market is already too saturated in the area, this might not be the best place for your new business.”

3. Factor in your budget

Neel suggests, “You need to be able to afford rent, bills, and utilities in the area, but you should also think about more hidden costs like travel or renovations. If you do feel like your money is a little tied up in the move, taking out a business credit card can give you greater financial freedom.”

4. Consider yourself

Neel comments, “You should consider yourself in the process too. Whether it’s being close to family, or having a short commute, make sure you think about what will contribute to your overall happiness and factor this into your location decision.”
Banner photo: Owning a small business or start up can be hugely affected by location. Credit: Marvin Meyer
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