No Place Like Wales for Entrepreneurs
The private sector is equally forward-thinking. “Accounting practices and solicitors are now all very active in promoting the entrepreneurial spirit in Wales,” according to Ken Poole, head of Economic Development at City of Cardiff Council.
A case in point, Nicholas de Figueiredo, of Capital Law, Cardiff, has given legal guidance to many of the capital’s start-ups and SMEs. The commercial and intellectual property solicitor recognises the “abundant, very active and well-connected” support networks available in Wales that stimulate the entrepreneurial process, putting employers in touch with the talent they need to make their business grow.
The Entrepreneur Wales Awards celebrate the stories that have fuelled this country's growth and recognises the achievements of our nation’s brightest business talent.
Produced by the organisers of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and the publishers of Fresh Business Thinking, the Entrepreneur Wales Awards acknowledge the hard work and inspiring stories of Welsh entrepreneurs and businesses in Wales.
But why is Wales a great place to do business? We caught up with some of the Entrepreneur Wales Awards finalists to find out.
The welcome in the hillsides has never been warmer for new business. Born in Canada, Yousra Elsadig, who first came to Wales as an international student in 2009, says she owes the growth of her clothing design firm, Boutique de Nana, to the enterprise-friendly climate she discovered in Cardiff.
“Attention per capita is so high here and people who want to progress can access the right tools and funding to realise their ambition," she says.
"There are many organisations tailored to helping different businesses,”
This is largely down to the efforts of the Welsh Government and regional partners in providing grants and initiatives, such as Jobs Growth Wales, that have created "anenvironment in which people feel they can start in enterprise,” says Keith Palmer, group CEO of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce and Centre for Business.
Wales has a history rich with natural leadership. Centuries of generating real innovators and entrepreneurs has seen the Welsh lead globally in key areas, which adds something special to our DNA as business people, according to Caroline Challoner, director at Cazbah Ltd.
Gareth Jones, founder and CEO of Welsh ICE, perceives a similarly strong social element in our entrepreneurial vitality. “The valleys have been identified as an area of deprivation for decades and I think that gives people the drive to really want to make a difference to their community,” he says.
The calibre of our young business people coming through the Young Enterprise Wales scheme is a key factor for YE Trustee, Martin Warren, who is “bowled over every year by the quality of applicants”.
Larkin Cen is the co-founder of Asian takeaway Hokkei. The 2103 MasterChef finalist feels the capital’s spread of people plays a key role in its efficacy as a hotbed for new business, particularly in his industry. “Many food sector brands will open 10 or 15 stores in London and then they’ll go to Wales," he says.
"That’s because there’s an amazing demographic here, especially if you’re looking at the younger end of the market, 18 to 45 years-of-age. If your business works in Cardiff, it will probably work in other regions too,” says former lawyer, Cen.
If small is beautiful then Wales owes much of its entrepreneurial lustre to its diminutive stature. Flexibility lets us adapt quickly to new economic trends in sectors such as life science, energy and technology.
Property initiatives in Wales have also played an important role. “Business technology units and workshop spaces are assisting start-ups at a competitive cost,” according to Ken Poole.
Similarly, good rail and road links maintain that all-important connection with London. Cardiff offers a “less cluttered” location where some “great deals are being done” according to Peter Jones, founder and director of Smart Anchor Ventures.
In the past, Wales has lost its brightest talent to cities across the border, but as business owner Suzanne Parry Jones illustrates, the intellectual tide is turning. “When I left Swansea for university, I thought I would never return as the big city lights beckoned," she says.
"I have come to realise that they were always here, in Swansea, and now they’re shining brighter than ever!”
Maybe our edge is simply down to a unique ingredient - some magic in the mix of graduates, professionals and a characterful local population eager to start building a better future.
Sue Poole, Enterprise Education Manager for Gower College Swansea, sees our collaborative work ethic as a catalyst for good business. “Wales is a small place and we all want to help one another thrive," she says.
"Universities and colleges work together in the enterprise sphere, sharing a common goal. Furthermore, we have a great team of champions here in Wales in further and higher education, driven to support young entrepreneurs who in turn are helped by the government and other large organisations.”
The communities set in our distinct landscape are fundamental to this spirit, according to Jonathan Deacon, senior academic at the University of South Wales.“Wherever you work in Wales, you’re not far from some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. Our work-life balance is pretty good… you’re probably more creative, productive and happier in what you do.
"As a small country, everybody really does know everyone else. When you’re in business and you’re looking for assistance, somebody will know someone who can open that door for you,” Mr Deacon says.
So now you know: Smart, skilled and business-savvy, Wales has every reason to be proud of its proven edge as an entrepreneurial hub. Whether you’re after funding, advice, or it’s simply a case of location, location, location, there really is no better place to start up a new enterprise.
The Entrepreneur Wales Awards, November 12 at the Millennium