When people think of Westminster, they think of big retailers in Knightsbridge or on Oxford, Bond and Regent Streets. But in actual fact, our business landscape is much more complex: 70 per cent of our enterprises are SMEs and we see more businesses started in Westminster than any other local authority in the country.However, Westminster is an expensive place to do business and part of the challenge of keeping such a thriving business hub prosperous is encouraging a culture of entrepreneurship in the City – something that we work hard to support at all levels. From encouraging would-be entrepreneurs in schools, to working with new businesses as they get off the ground, the council is committed to offering a helping hand to encourage entrepreneurialism. The work starts at school. To help plant the seed of entrepreneurialism early, this year we have provided funding for all Westminster schools to take part in the national Young Enterprise programme, where young people set up real companies and compete to win a prize for their business acumen. We currently have 12 companies formed in Westminster schools and around 120 children taking part. Once the seed has been sewn, it needs nurturing. One third of startups fail within the first three years and it’s vital that they get the support they need to survive. That’s why we have set up four “Business Information Points” in libraries across Westminster. Budding entrepreneurs have free access to one of the most extensive business advisory services in the country, with extensive information on how to go about starting a business and essential research resources. One of the biggest challenges facing startups is finding somewhere to locate their business. Westminster real estate is at a premium, with prices to match. With funding from our Civic Enterprise Fund, we invest in innovative economic development projects, one of which is Hub Westminster – London’s largest business incubation space. Opened in October last year, Hub Westminster currently houses 233 people in shared workspace and provides business advice, events and consultancy, which 3,500 people have taken advantage of to date. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy, something we are acutely aware of in Westminster with such a high concentration of SMEs. That’s why it is vital that we encourage a pro-business, pro-entrepreneurship culture, something we, as a council, are committed to and we welcome from the Chancellor. Councillor Brian Connell is Westminster Council‘s cabinet member for enterprise and skills.
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