Bristol is a popular choice for startups and small businesses – it’s not as expensive as London, there’s a huge creative and tech ecosystem already in place, and it’s got a vibrant feel. You’ll find plenty of young and up-and-coming brands, apps, and agencies in the city and its outskirts.
It’s not just the feel of the place that attracts businesses though. There are tonnes of fantastic resources available to help build and grow, lots of meetups and networking opportunities, and a whole host of other businesses to support your every need.
We’ve pulled together some of our favourite resources in good old Brizzle. Let us know if you can think of any more…
When you’re starting out, you don’t need the expense of an office. Especially when you’re growing – do you sign a lease for a space that’s the right size now but you’ll outgrow pretty soon, or do you find somewhere that fits your growth plans, but costs more than you need right now?
Co-working spaces save you the dilemma. You can rent hot desks, fixed desks, or even partitioned offices within a larger building. So no matter what size your business is now, and what you intend for it to become, there’s a space that suits your needs.
Bristol has a range of different spaces on offer, these are just a few:
- Desklodge – minutes from Cabot Circus and the city centre, with funky hot desk spaces (including a Tardis), meeting rooms and free tea and coffee
- Redbrick House – based in Stokes Croft, open plan co-working spaces, meeting rooms, fixed desks, and studio space that’s perfect for creatives
- Meanwhile Creative – from desks and studios to full, open-plan office space, in various locations around Bristol and Cardiff.
For small businesses and startups, there’s nothing quite like a co-working space. You don’t have the cost of an office but you have the facilities and camaraderie of one. They’re also great if you work alone – you get out of your house and into a business environment, surrounded by interesting people and businesses.
Did you know you can borrow equipment and facilities at Bristol University? Specialist labs and scientific equipment are available to businesses to carry out testing, analysis, simulation and trials.
If you’re a scientific start-up without the capital to buy Light and Electron Microscopy machines, you should be able to find exactly what you need here. Whether you’re researching animal behaviour, mapping DNA sequences, conducting materials analysis, or doing something with metabolomics (that we don’t understand), there’s a lab that covers it.
BRAVE is Bristol’s main small business advice service, offering advice, training, and consultancy. They’ve been around since 1983, and are a not-for-profit social enterprise. Their workshops are reasonably priced, and their website contains helpful resources, like business plan templates and blog posts with actionable advice.
Check out the extremely helpful Start Up Info Hub from BRAVE, too. You’ll find resources on topics ranging from setting up a business, to planning, sales and marketing, business law, and scaling up your business. You’ll find articles and videos, so however you prefer to consume the information, there’s something to suit.
Business West describe themselves as “A not-for-profit company with 200 staff and a turnover of £10 million, we aim to make this area the best place to live and work. 21,000 businesses trust us to help them start and grow as well as lobby government on their behalf. Profits are reinvested back into the business in order to achieve our mission.”
You can sign up free to get access to business guides, a monthly newsletter with news, tips, and opportunities, and invitations to events, training, and workshops. Not bad. They have partners and services to help businesses in the South West grow and expand. They can help you find funding, start exporting overseas, access finance and grants to support growth, and plenty more. You can also join the Chamber of Commerce here – a good move for lots of businesses.
Bristol Media was created in 2005 to support, develop and grow an exciting and competitive creative/media community in the city. It’s now one of the biggest creative networks in the UK, so if your business is on the creative side, this is one for you.
Members get a listing on the site’s directory, the ability to post job ads to an audience who are actively looking for a role in the creative industry, and access to training course. In addition, there are some extra perks, including discounts on Xero accounting software, membership at Engine Shed (more on them in a minute), discounts at hotels and meeting room venues, and even discounts on Aardman Away Days.
Plus you’re joining a community of peers and potential contacts, so make the most of training and networking opportunities to build up your business in the local creative scene.
Engine Shed is found in Brunel’s original station, so it’s packed with history and is a funky place that fits the Bristol aesthetic right away. There’s meeting and event space for hire – Platform 14 is perfect for product launches – the ‘business lounge’ co-working space, talks and events, and a free ‘Investor in Residence’ for advice on pitches and funding options.
There’s a diverse range of businesses and resources already in place at Engine Shed, including TechSPARK, Catch22, and GW4, not to mention Invest Bristol and Bath. If you want to grow or accelerate your business, you’d do well to pop in.