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Look Beyond London: Running a business in Sheffield

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Next, we heard from the Jonas Hotel about doing business in Sheffield. We spoke with Steve Timmins,?business development manager for UNICUS at The University of Sheffield, who oversees Jonas.

“The Jonas Hotel is the latest addition to the commercial enterprise based at The University of Sheffield under the auspices of Unicus, the wholly owned business of the university & therefore it was natural for the hotel to be conceived & developed for the city,” said Timmins of the hotel’s introduction to Sheffield.

“The hotel complements the existing 38-bedroom boutique-styled Halifax Hall Hotel & Student accommodation. Sheffield City Region has a population of over 1.5m & with both universities providing 60,000 students, Sheffield enjoys a burgeoning accommodation renaissance.?

“The Jonas Hotel provides a hybrid of communal, home-from-home comfort, fun, recreation, & study for everybody in a truly diverse environment.

Offering some figures to support doing business in Sheffield, Timmins detailed that commercial developments in the Sheffield City Region rose 73 per cent in the year ended March 2017. There were also 46 investments in the region during that period, resulting in 2,300 new jobs.

“In the last year supercar maker McLaren invested in research & production at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (owned by The University of Sheffield) & Singapore company Metro Holdings investing in the Acero building on the Sheffield Digital Campus,” Timmins said.

“The top five projects were the ?75m Hitachi Maintenance development; IKEA’s ?60m facility; the £50m McLaren site; Ferdinand Bilstein’s £38m distribution centre & Amazon’s latest Doncaster site which cost £25m all within Sheffield City Region.

“Sheffield City Region has acknowledged the need to develop & today is a base for advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, world-leading universities, a recognition of the need to augment Chinese relationships along with a hugely entrepreneurial workforce.

?Prime examples of developments include Sumo Group, the Sheffield-based independent game developer, announcing its £145m AIM listing on 18 December, while a partnership agreement between Sheffield City Council and the Chinese-led Sichaun Guodong is the biggest deal for any city outside London, with the first three years” worth more than £200m to the city and will see major investment in Sheffield.

As for what would make doing business in Sheffield more desirable, Timmins said connectivity to the wider Northern Powerhouse with a high-speed rail line will be the answer to grant fast access to Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull. Inspiration could be taken from London also, with integrated travel offering movement across different types of transport, he said.

?Further emphasis & delivery on a revised proposal for a Trans-Pennine Tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester will also facilitate the fundamental ease of transportation for business,” he continued.

“The proposed tunnel would be shorter than the 20 mile versions previously proposed and include upgrades to the Woodhead Pass and new roads links east of Sheffield to avoid congestion.

?Sheffield is a hugely entrepreneurial city; we need the infrastructure to help us go from strength-to-strength.

Business in Sheffield
?We always work to the maxim that you are only as good as your last meal and aim to do things better today than we did yesterday?

Meanwhile, Peter Moulam, founding partner of catering business PJ Taste launched the business in Sheffield despite not originating from there.

Not originally from Sheffield but very much calling it home after University (as many people do) along with a good understanding of the catering market locally were key drivers in the decision to set up in Sheffield,” he said.

Additionally, Moulam saw a market gap back in 2006 to open a caf that specialised in sustainable food sourced locally, but admitted food and drink in the city has evolved considerably since.

?Once up and running we did feel well supported particularly by our customers but also government agencies in the form of advice, training and some financial support for upgrading equipment after a year via Yorkshire Forward,” Moulam added.

“More recently Business Sheffield has facilitated mentoring and inspiring networking with Sheffield small business champions Andy Hanselman Consulting.?The key was getting to first base.?

Moulam recalled how tricky it was to get taken seriously before the first premises was secured, but said it taught them a valuable lesson.

“The learning point was to be absolutely and completely resolute in our convictions to keep going and overcome all the barriers which were placed in our way.?It’s certainly much easier now!” he said.

Doing business in Sheffield is made easier by the fact the city isn’t as developed as somewhere like London, which means PJ Taste can keep innovating.

?We always work to the maxim that you are only as good as your last meal and aim to do things better today than we did yesterday,” Moulam continued.

Two universities in the city means that there’s no end of staff seeking quality food, while students are often on the lookout for work.

Add to this Sheffield as the Outdoor City has continued to offer a playground for us adventurous spirits with rock climbing, mountain biking and plenty of foraging opportunities on our doorstep!” declared Moulam.

?Given our experience of the difficulties in initially starting up, I feel that public agencies should concentrate in this area.?As a retail business securing premises was key, but landlords will naturally prioritise existing larger business when there is competition for vacant sites.

?With a strong business plan and sensible funding in place perhaps a better way could be found to help new starters over this initial hurdle.?

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