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Look Beyond London: Running a business in Sheffield

Our Look Beyond London series continues and this time around we’re observing what Sheffield offers entrepreneurs.
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With Look Beyond London, we’ve spread ourselves across the UK so far, speaking with company directors in Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham and Cambridge, but now we’ve turned our attention to running a business in Sheffield.

Back in summer, it was highlighted by doing business in Sheffield brought about financial reward for the firms and employees. The job site’s research revealed that the city had experienced an 11.3 per cent year-on-year salary increase in June 2017 versus June 2016.

Sheffield came top of a top ten list, which saw Southampton in last place with 0.2 per cent salary growth.

Well-placed to know first-hand what doing business in Sheffield is like is Pennie Hudson-Ward, CEO of ArchformByte.

Explaining why her company was launched in the city, she said: “My father took a job at the University of Sheffield in the late 50s teaching orthodontics. He later started the business, which I eventually took over and developed.

“I was born and raised in Sheffield, so it made sense to keep the business there when I took it over. It was already working well, so I didn’t feel like I needed to change the location.”

Describing the business community in Sheffield as “great”, Hudson-Ward detailed that support is readily available to companies whether they’re just starting or scaling.

“Business Sheffield has been brilliant in supporting us,” she said. “They are a great link, and give advice and contacts for anything from marketing, IT through to introductions to the DIT for exporting.

“We have also worked with the Sheffield City Region team for advice on availability of grants for projects to grow the business, which has been a huge support.”

Doing business in Sheffield has the added benefit of lower costs, so operating in the capital isn’t of interest to the company.

“We couldn’t run our business as cost effectively as we do if we had to pay for premises in London on top of the day to day running costs of manufacturing,” reasoned Hudson-Ward.

“We’re lucky, because we are a national business and supply to dentists across the country, so we can be based anywhere, and this allows us to take advantage of the cheaper overheads by being based in Sheffield.

“The cost of living is lower in Sheffield too, so homes are affordable for our young team and it’s easier to achieve a good work life balance than it would if the business was based in the capital, all of which is important to us.”

She highlighted that Sheffield is geographically sound and called for it to be the UK’s manufacturing and business hub, but said other northern cities are stealing its thunder. As a result, she suggested more should be done to promote brand Sheffield.

“Sheffield should invest in better infrastructure, improving our roads and rail links, and a good airport to really put Sheffield on the map. This would make it easier for us to export and make deliveries faster and more efficiently,” said Hudson-Ward.

“Sheffield must also invest in better superfast internet access in the area, if we want to compete with the best in the world, we must have fast and reliable broadband.”

Business in Sheffield

“What makes Sheffield special is that it has a great community feel to it, which you don’t find in other big cities”

American entrepreneur Koreen Clements, co-founder of Hot Yoga Sheffield, said it was family ties that kept her in Sheffield rather than being born there.

“My business partner Anne-Marie and myself – we’re both North American. Anne Marie hails from New York and I’m from Canada, but we love the city and our English husbands attended university in Sheffield and ended up staying,” she detailed.

“It was the right time and the right place because hot yoga, which is where you practice yoga in a room at 30-40 ºC, has been popular for quite a while in North America and in bigger cities like London, but we wanted to bring the new trend to Sheffield.”

The concept of the exercise is that the heat allows participants to warm up quickly, allowing them to get more flexible, while meditative breathing techniques are also taught. Clements noted that the active and lively nature of city inhabitants would make Hot Yoga Sheffield a success.

In terms of why doing business in Sheffield has been so ideal, she added: “Seriously, I think some of the best people on the planet live here. We received a lot of help from people across the city and had financial support from The Start Up Loans Company, which allowed us to bring Hot Yoga Sheffield to life.

“What makes Sheffield special is that it has a great community feel to it, which you don’t find in other big cities. People are incredibly friendly and having two universities in the city gives a great boost to our customer base. You always see new businesses popping up in the local area, and everyone is keen to support them which makes a huge difference.

“They’re also always ready to try something new, which is why when we started Hot Yoga we had so many people wanting to have a go. Without that welcoming and adventurous spirit, our business wouldn’t be where it is today.”

Doing business in Sheffield is also attractive to but one thing is that Sheffield is more accessible for entrepreneurs that want to achieve growth.

“We’ve just opened our second studio in the city, so having access to affordable and reasonable rent is crucial for growing the business. Starting up outside of London has probably given us a lot more opportunities to expand than we would have had otherwise,” said Clements.

One such opportunity has been the ability to encourage a loyal base of customers, with regulars attending frequently, allowing the co-founders to get to know clients well. In turn, that helps with word of mouth.

Echoing Hudson-Ward’s sentiments, brand Sheffield needs to be nurtured to help attract other customers, according to Clements, who said: “We need to build the city’s reputation as a start-up hub in the North of England, which would encourage more business investment in the area.”

Continue on the next page as we hear from the Jonas Hotel and catering business PJ Taste about running a business in Sheffield.

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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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