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Are you keen to start a business but don’t know where to set up camp? Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, many start-ups have seen success become a distant memory - with some locations struggling to bounce back fully from its impact. However, as the world continues on the road to recovery, many budding business owners are ready to get back on their feet and start afresh. The question is, where is the best city for you to birth your business and boost your bank balance? Here at Virgin Money, we’ve conducted an in-depth study and sourced case studies to uncover which cities in the UK are the best to start a business.

We’ve taken a deep dive into the following important factors to consider when starting a business in a city:

  • Average commute time: the percentage of work commutes that take over 60 minutes on average.
  • Innovation: the number of patents per 100,000 people.
  • Internet quality: the average internet speed in the area.
  • CO2 emissions per capita: the percentage change between the years 2017 and 2019, with the lowest figures getting the highest marks.
  • Business churn rate: the percentage change of businesses closing between the years 2017 and 2020.
  • High street recovery rate: based on footfall, we looked into how our city centres are recovering after the pandemic.
  • Unemployment claim rate: the lower the figure, the healthier the economy.
  • Happiness rating: the higher the figure, the better.

Itching to know the top 10 best cities to start a company? Say no more…

infographic showing which cities are the best to start a business in the UK

According to the data, Cambridge comes out on top as the best city to start a business. The historic university city ranks as the top city for both innovation and happiness, as well as placing in the top five cities for length of commute, people in employment and internet quality.

As well as analysing the data, we also spoke to Virgin StartUp customers from the top 10 cities who used Virgin StartUp loans to help grow their business, and who’ve experienced running and maintaining a successful business during the covid pandemic.

Camelia Andrei is the founder and co-owner of Hocus Pocus Hotel Link opens in a new window in York - the third best city to start a business in - and she’s given us a first-hand account of how she brought home the bacon. She says:

“During the pandemic, I reached out to a business neighbour at the time and my 50% business partner now, Vincent Roberts. We agreed to combine my hotelier knowledge and his property developing skills to create a themed hotel for York visitors.

Despite initial difficulties when attempting to purchase the building, we were passionate enough to come up with cash in hand to do so. Then, we luckily managed to get renovation funds in the form of a 25k Virgin StartUp Link opens in a new window Loan.

We opened Hocus Pocus on 14 June 2020. Bookings have gradually started to take off, and we’ve fortunately been able to increase our rates. We were certain we wanted the hotel to be in York as it’s a great tourist city - we’re privileged we’re able to add to that, and this couldn’t have happened without the start-up loan.”

So once you’re settled on a location to launch your new business, how do you go about actually setting up?

From mapping out your idea at the beginning to marketing your start-up once it’s underway, Sharon Ellis, Head of Business Networks at Virgin Money, has drafted up some helpful tips to get you on your way to starting your own business:

Map out your business idea

Starting a business doesn’t just happen overnight. Sharon says:

“There are a few crucial questions you’ll need to ask yourself at the very beginning of your business journey…

  • How viable is your business idea?
  • Who are your potential customers?
  • Do you have enough financial support to make your dreams a reality?”

Write a detailed business plan

A written plan is tangible and will bring your business to life. Sharon says:

“It’s all down to research. Determine how your business is different to the size of the market you want to break into and conduct surveys of some potential customers. It’s good to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses!”

Get your finances in order

It’s not just about finding the right business current account. Sharon explains:

“The most essential financial areas of your business are your start-up costs, funding options and business insurance possibilities. Do as much research as possible and make each decision wisely. Secure your business’s finances by choosing a business current account Link opens in a new window that caters to your needs. Whether you need no monthly fee incentives, cashback rewards, or tools that help you to manage your business’ money.”

You should also look at what other tools and finance options are available to you. Data and insights platforms, such as our M-Track Link opens in a new window dashboard, and business loans, such as ones with Virgin StartUp, are great options to help you grow your business and manage your finances.”

Market, market, market

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the process of getting your business off the ground, but marketing it is key. Sharon suggests:

“Creating a company website is more important than you may think. From high-quality content to fruitful links - you can drive a lot of traffic to your brand site. Investing time in CRM software, a social media presence and marketing campaigns could see you going from peanuts to big bucks.

You can also communicate with other start-ups to ask for advice on marketing and other questions you may have. Our stores Link opens in a new window are great for this and are open to both customers and non-customers.”


A study conducted in August 2022, based on the following metrics:

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