Why small businesses thrive in Manchester

The vibrant city of Manchester has been a hotbed of innovation since the industrial revolution. With the explosion of cotton mills and factories in the 18th century, it was considered the world’s first true industrial city, changing the way of life for millions across the globe.

Today, it is the main business powerhouse of the north west and is home to thousands of successful entrepreneurs, small businesses and start ups. Quay Accountants are proud to be part of a thriving community of product & service providers in Manchester.

Greater Manchester has a great deal to recommend it to small business owners, such as its affordability, growing economy, skilled talent pool and free business support.

At Quay Accountants, we provide support to many small businesses in Greater Manchester with our broad range of accounting services.

We never pass up an opportunity to sing the praises of our great city, so here’s our rundown of why Manchester is, in our opinion, the best place in the UK to start a small business.

Our top 6 reasons for starting a small business in Manchester

Outside of the capital, there are few places to rival Greater Manchester as a location for a small business. In fact, Manchester was named in 2021 as the most entrepreneurial city in the UK (Symcox, 2022).

As well as being a great place to live, it is an economic hotspot, thriving technical hub and important international trade centre, just bursting with opportunity for entrepreneurs, scale ups and start ups.

1) High level of Foreign Direct Investment

Manchester is the leading city in the country, after London, in terms of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), with 31 projects registered in 2021. It’s a clear indication of confidence in the region as it continues to recover post-pandemic.

FDI is a huge factor in economic growth, the development of technology and international trade – to the benefit of small businesses just as much as large corporations.

2) A growing economy

Despite the challenging times of the past few years, Manchester has shown terrific resilience and the local economy continues to grow. In 2021, the economy of the city region grew by 8% and is set for future growth in 2022.

3) Good business support network

Small business owners can rely on fantastic support when they choose Manchester as their base. There are several organisations that offer free advice and support, such as the Business Growth Hub, MIDAS and the city’s universities.

Business Growth Hub offers free business support, events, mentoring and funding opportunities to local businesses in Greater Manchester (GC Business Growth Hub, 2022). Part of the Growth Company, their aim is to help small businesses fulfil their potential.

Their services are funded by the government, local authorities and the European regional development fund, among other organisations.

If you are a small business looking for advice on how to grow your business, then Quay Accountants can help.

MIDAS promotes investment in Greater Manchester and helps businesses looking to relocate and grow in the area (About MIDAS – Invest in Manchester, 2022).

It offers free, expert advice on subjects such as recruitment, securing the right business premises, investment proposals and market research. It also helps companies to establish valuable networks including suppliers, universities and agencies.

Universities. Both Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester facilitate knowledge partnership schemes, giving small businesses access to valuable skills and resources (Knowledge exchange- The University of Manchester, 2022).

This can help small businesses to develop and give them a real competitive edge.

4) Affordability

With inflation and rising costs affecting so many small businesses, Manchester offers an affordable alternative to London with all of the resources you would expect from a major city but at a fraction of the price.

Compared to the capital, the cost of living in Manchester is estimated to be 17.5% lower than the capital (Cost of Living in Manchester- Numbeo, 2022).

In terms of retail space, the cost in Manchester is on average £220 per square foot, compared to around £700-£2,000 per square foot in the most expensive areas of London.

5) Skilled talent pool

Academic institutions such as Manchester Metropolitan University turn out a steady stream of graduates, over half of which choose to remain in the city. Great news for start ups looking to bring talent on board.

Manchester City Council have also just announced their plans to help upskill local residents, with a brand new work and skills strategy designed to help “everyone in Manchester succeed” and fulfil their potential (Manchester City Council, 2022).

6) A forward-looking, vibrant city

If you are choosing somewhere to put down your small business roots, it may as well be the 13th best city in the world (The 53 best cities in the world for 2022- Time Out Worldwide, 2022)! Manchester is a bustling, forward-looking city, full of cultural hotspots, amazing hotels, bars and restaurants.

Manchester is also a young city, with around 100,000 students and 45% of the population under the age of 35. That gives the city a vibrant and dynamic feel and it is an exciting place to be.

Us Mancunians are also as friendly as they come, so you can be sure of a warm welcome!

Quay Accountants – supporting Greater Manchester SMEs

If you are looking to establish a start up business in Manchester, then first, welcome! Quay Accountants are based just outside of the city and know the area like the back of our hand. We help lots of local businesses in the Greater Manchester area to manage their finances and get on the road to success.

If your small business in Manchester would benefit from professional and affordable assistance with bookkeeping, accounting software, tax, VAT or management reporting, then please contact us to find out how we can help.


  • Symcox, J., 2022. UK’s Top 5 most entrepreneurial cities revealed – BusinessCloud. [online] BusinessCloud. Available at: <https://businesscloud.co.uk/news/uks-top-5-most-entrepreneurial-cities-revealed/> [Accessed 20 August 2022].
  • Manchester City Council.2022. Brand-new work and skills strategy to help everyone in Manchester succeed | Manchester City Council. [online] Manchester.gov.uk. Available at: <https://www.manchester.gov.uk/news/article/9061/brand-new_work_and_skills_strategy_to_help_everyone_in_manchester_succeed> [Accessed 20 August 2022].
  • GC Business Growth Hub. 2022. GC Business Growth Hub: Resources to support and grow your business | GC Business Growth Hub. [online] Available at: <https://www.businessgrowthhub.com/> [Accessed 20 August 2022].
  • Investinmanchester.com. 2022. About MIDAS – Invest in Manchester. [online] Available at: <https://www.investinmanchester.com/about-us/midas> [Accessed 20 August 2022].
  • The University of Manchester. 2022. Knowledge exchange | The University of Manchester. [online] Available at: <https://www.manchester.ac.uk/collaborate/business-engagement/knowledge-exchange/> [Accessed 20 August 2022].
  • Numbeo.com. 2022. Cost of Living in Manchester. [online] Available at: <https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Manchester> [Accessed 20 August 2022].
  • Time Out Worldwide. 2022. The 53 best cities in the world for 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.timeout.com/things-to-do/best-cities-in-the-world> [Accessed 20 August 2022].

This post features links to Master Manchester. A non-affiliated website that provides reviews of products and service providers in Greater Manchester.

Picture of Anousheh Borji

Anousheh Borji

Anousheh is a partner at Quay Accountants and specialises in small business accounting, helping make accounting as stress free as possible!