The essential guide to starting a business in Oxford
Oxford is a very popular spot for starting a business. Smallbusiness.co.uk took a look at what it’s like to be based there. This piece was previously published on Smallbusiness.co.uk and includes a case study of Tribe PR’s MD and founder. Read on to find out all about starting a business in Oxfordshire.
Oxford is becoming an increasingly desirable location for starting a business. It’s within easy reach of other business hubs like London and Bristol, has a rich history coupled with grand architecture and is a real treat for literature fans.
ONS mid-2018 population estimates had the population of Oxford at 687,500. Said population is ageing, with the number of people aged 85+ expected to increase as much as 63pc by 2032, according to the Oxfordshire Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. However, planned housing growth is expected to create a significant increase in the working age and younger populations. What’s more, the university means there’s a high rate of people aged 20-24 living in Oxford city.
The crime rate in Oxford is about the same as it is in similar areas. In the year ending December 2018, it was 105.22 per 1,000 population – around the same level as Northampton (105.79) and Reading (102.71). As you might imagine, bike theft is more common than in other UK cities. Thames Valley Police says that 1,816 bikes were stolen last year. That’s around five bikes per day.
Most house sales in Oxford over the past year have been semi-detached properties with an average price at £507,303, according to Rightmove.
Oxford attracts seven million daytime and staying visitors per year, generating £780m of income for local businesses.
Bus services run all around the city or you can jump on Stagecoach services to Bicester Village, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge.
Oxford has two train stations: Oxford Train Station and Oxford Parkway. The former runs regular services to London Paddington, London Marylebone, Reading and Birmingham New Street. Oxford Parkway goes to London Marylebone via Bicester Village.
The city doesn’t have an airport so your nearest options are London airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and City) or Birmingham Airport. Heathrow and Gatwick have direct coach services to Oxford which run 24 hours a day.
Oxfordshire Business Support is the first place to visit for SME funding. It has the Elevate Grant which is made up of two offerings, one of which is for start-ups. You just need to have fewer than 250 employees and be based in Oxfordshire. The grant will be £1,000-£3,000 and is intended for job creation, start-up and growth. OxLEP offers grants too, but none were available at the time of writing.
Holly Pither set up Tribe PR in the outskirts to give her more space to write and spend time with her family.
For me the key was being able to work more flexibly around my family (baby daughter and husband). Being in PR, I really don’t feel that it matters where I work. My clients are based all over the UK and as long as I can travel to see them face-to-face and do regular Google Hangouts then location isn’t an issue. Transport links around here are good, with trains out of Oxford Parkway, Oxford city itself and of course Didcot, Bicester and so forth.
We have two great universities nearby which is great for grads coming into the industry. Plus, if we can’t do something here at the agency, then I will look to my tribe of people to help nearby. Most of them work locally and their skills are exemplary. And because they’re based out in Oxfordshire, rather than in London, they can keep their costs at a sensible rate too. I would say that Oxford’s main industries include motor manufacturing, education, publishing, information technology and science. We have quite a few science parks located here and of course the Harwell Campus too. It’s a hive of activity for young people and I love being inspired by all the great people doing innovative new things.
Living outside the city
I live right out in the sticks in a little village, so the peace and tranquility are perfect for writing and having time to think strategically. The quality of life is great too. While I may live in a tiny village, I have been surprised at how many like-minded professionals are on my doorstep. I met one person in an online networking group, only to find out he lived less than a mile away. There are a number of networking events locally in both Oxford and Cheltenham too, and with the universities and Saïd Business School nearby we are so well served for great events and inspiring sessions that surprise and delight in their content.
Networking groups range from industry focused groups covering off-topics like sustainability and climate change to female networking groups like Mumpreneurs Oxfordshire, which I have attended on a number of occasions. There are also some great venues to work in too. One of my favourites is Quarters Collective, which is a fantastic co-working space with wonderful coffee, great cake and a lovely working environment. They also put on some great events in the evenings.
It’s worth the extra effort to find contacts
Get out and network as much as possible. I found I really had to push myself to get out there and attend events since I moved away from London. Given they’re not always nearby and you need to think about logistics and travel a little more, it can be easier to be a avoid them altogether. But this is completely the wrong approach. There are some amazing events locally and some fantastic people to meet who can form part of your tribe, so get out there and get connecting.