British Business Titans: Where Did They Start Their Companies?

    Blog, Bruntwood,
    Ariel shot of Manchester city centre

    Think about business in the UK, and your mind probably flicks to Canary Wharf’s dazzling skyscrapers and an army of suits jostling for space on the London Underground. 

    But you may be surprised to hear that big business in the UK has long spanned far beyond London. That’s right, it’s not always a case of the Big Smoke steamrolling its way to success (although it is a natural favourite for entrepreneurs – but more on that later). 

    From the upper reaches of Scotland to the South West coast, many of the country’s best-known British companies got their start outside of the capital. So we thought, why not shine a light on these success stories?

    Researching the launchpads of 100 of the most well-known companies in the UK, we’ve collated the most common towns and cities for big business launches, below. Come with us to see which areas take the proverbial Great British business biscuit!

    Where were the biggest British companies founded?

    Table of Biggest British Businesses

    According to our data, Greater London is the most popular region in the UK to start a big business, with 36 of our companies founded in our historic capital.

    However, this stat does not tell the full story of big business in the UK. In fact, the majority (64%) of businesses in our dataset were founded outside of London, despite the capital’s reputation for being the country’s main business hub.

    Furthermore, these famous businesses were not clustered together in a couple of hotspots outside of the capital – they were spread out across the entire country. From the North East down to the South West, some of Britain’s most well-known brands got their big starts in the little known towns that are far cry from the sky-scraping districts of London. 

    Take a look, below, to find out more about the history of big businesses outside of our capital city.

    Biggest businesses founded in North West England

    Table of biggest businesses found in North West

    Outside of London, the North West has the richest history with British business titans, accounting for 14% of companies in our dataset.

    The region’s main hub of business is Manchester, which housed almost 30% of the North West companies on our list. This includes household names such as Rolls Royce, PG Tips and Vimto, which all initially set up shop in the thriving city.

    Yet, the North West’s big business heritage is not just limited to Manchester City Centre – the smaller towns and villages of the region have also seen the rise of hugely successful companies. Take Blackpool, for example. The northern seaside town was the home of Jaguar and B&M before they rocketed into the public eye, which is a local point of pride.

    Even today, many start-ups recognise the value of the North West as a business hub, with exciting companies such as Push Doctor, Mojo Mortgages and Safe Steps all finding success in Manchester, Macclesfield and Liverpool, respectively. 

    Biggest businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber

    Table of biggest businesses founded in Yorkshire and Humber

    As our data showcases, Yorkshire and the Humber has long been a thriving business hub, only second to the North West for regions outside of London.

    Retail giants, in particular, have a storied history with Yorkshire and the Humber, with companies such as ASDA, Morrison’s, Marks & Spencer and Next all getting their big break across the region. In fact, the majority of these household retail names started in one city: Leeds, which accounts for 33% of the Yorkshire big businesses in our data set.

    In more recent years, Leeds has been dubbed the ‘Digital Capital of the UK’ as start-ups flock to the city centre and flourish. Companies such as ITCH, Incuto and Opeteran, for example, all started in Leeds over the last five years and have already managed to raise a total of £17.15m in funding. It’s only a matter of time before one of these start-ups follow in the footsteps of the city’s historic titans of business.

    Biggest businesses in the East of England

    Table of biggest businesses in East of England

    Our research shows that the East of England is the third most popular starting point outside of London for big businesses.

    There’s such diversity in the industries they operate in, too. From tourism and entertainment to health and pharmaceuticals, all manner of household names got their start in the East of England, including Premier Inn, Holland & Barrett, AstraZeneca and Cineworld.

    The big business roots in the region are no doubt helped by the talent pool of students graduating from the University of Cambridge. And, especially in modern times, Cambridge has seen an explosion of exciting businesses pop up to complement AstraZeneca and Innocent Drinks, such as Fetch AI, Xampla and Healx.

    Certainly, the East of England’s big business heritage looks set to continue for many more years.

    Want to follow in the footsteps of Britain’s business titans by starting your own company? Bruntwood Group provide the working facilities you need to get your business off the ground and running. Head over to our website to find your nearest Bruntwood location.

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