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Look Beyond London: Running a business in Bristol

For our Look Beyond London this month, we’ve taken a trip to the south west to find out how entrepreneurs feel about running a business in Bristol, hearing about everything from nurseries to burgers.
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Last month we introduced Look Beyond London, a new feature that recognises entrepreneurial talent can be found across the UK and not just in the capital, which kicked off with a look at Leeds – now we move onto doing business in Bristol.

Real Business attended the Bristol Balloon Fiesta this month, invited by Webgains, a London-based affiliate marketing company that also operates the business in Bristol.

We heard from members of the team just how the southwest location is ripe with technical talent, as well as youngsters eager to learn.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, it isn’t just SMEs that have a taste for the area – Amazon will do business in Bristol with a new warehouse that will recruit some 1,000 staff members in roles spanning HR, engineering, IT and management.

“There are several factors we consider when deciding on where to place a new fulfilment centre, and Bristol offers fantastic infrastructure and talented local people who we look forward to joining the Amazon team,” said Stefano Perego, Amazon’s director of UK customer fulfilment.

Speaking with Real Business about why Webgains was launched in Bristol, CEO Richard Dennys said the city is becoming the new London.

“It is a vibrant city with less crowding and we see a lot of young talent come over from London who want the same vibe with less chaos. We have found that it is becoming hub for talented people, in particular for us in the digital marketing sector,” he detailed, noting staff with various skills have been found without issue.

Dennys continued: “It is a city of fresh ideas and full of creative individuals so it is a positive environment for a business in particular one which is forward thinking. As Bristol is vastly being developed and growing it is perfect for businesses which is also growing and expanding.”

Helpfully, business in Bristol is made more convenient with an entrepreneurial spirit in Webgain’s office, which is shared alongside other digital SMEs – a trend he expects to continue.

“Bristol is accessible in many ways, from a location perspective to business attitude. There are many collaborations and partnerships as a result of this. It is also less crowded and chaotic which in turn creates a more relaxed atmosphere to do business in,” he said.

In terms of changes to business in Bristol though, he would like to see more London firms embracing the city and called for more events to meet contacts.

“This month, we hosted an event at the Balloon Fiesta to showcase all our partners the Bristol spirit, which was a great networking opportunity.”

Business in Bristol

“There’s still more opportunity in Bristol for businesses that understand what life with a job and young children is like”

Changing sectors now we move into childcare, speaking with Helen Nott, the co-founder and CEO of Charlton Nursery. As a native of the area, doing business in Bristol was something of a no-brainer, she explained.

“Bristol has always been my family home and I am very settled here in this wonderful city. I had struggled to find great early years childcare for my two sons and realised there was a need for quality children’s nurseries in Bristol,” Nott shared.

“I launched Charlton Nursery in 2004, initially in Wraxall and then opened two further nurseries in Flax Bourton and at Winterstoke Road in Bristol.”

Referring to Bristol’s enterprise environment as “fantastic”, she highlighted the accessible links into the city and neighbouring towns, essentially making it convenient for staff, whether they live in or out of town.

“It has a good mix of vibrant city life and ‘on the doorstep’ countryside, which provides a good focus for work-life balance. Bristol also has so many talented people for employment and Charlton Nursery is able to recruit really high quality people, who are enthusiastic to work in early years education and nursery provision.”

With nurseries in both the countryside and city, Nott noted that contact with working parents across Bristol can offer valuable insights and feedback.

“Bristol has always had a supportive culture – it feels like a close-knit city, so that whilst there is healthy competition, there is also a sense of support,” she said. “There are great local networks, formal and informal, and we don’t need to look outside the city for anything.

“There’s lots of opportunity witnessed by the brilliant range of startup companies and entrepreneurs who base themselves here.”

Adding desired changes, Nott said that her enterprise has allowed her to see that many local companies still don’t understand flexibility and work-life balance.

“There’s still more opportunity in Bristol for businesses that understand what life with a job and young children is like, and design roles that are sensitive to the family’s needs,” she opined.

On the next page, find out why this winner of The Apprentice decided business in Bristol was the way forward, and read about the burger business that went from Bristol to Cardiff and back again.

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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