As everyone knows, Bristol is a start-up hub, with 1,183 start-ups registered in 2016. The city’s deep engrained culture of supporting and promoting independent businesses lends itself perfectly to the start-up community, and there are plenty of collective work spaces like the Engine Shed, Spike Island and the new Redbrick House, where start-up teams can come together and work alongside like-minded people. Plus there’s a buoyant local economy, a real mix of cultures and sectors and inspiring creativity wherever you look, all of which provide new enterprises with the perfect environment to thrive and grow.
But these are not the only things that make Bristol a great place for start-ups, because I think it also has a lot to do with the city’s strong sense of community, something you’re usually more likely to come across in a small village than a city.
Community spirit pervades all aspects of Bristol life, work and culture, and there’s a real sense here that by coming together and being supportive and collaborative people can achieve so much more. And it’s this community mentality that provides the perfect environment for start-ups to thrive and develop.
A recent national Sunday newspaper crowned Bristol the best place to live in the UK, and I was interested to see that Bristolian opinion was divided. While many were delighted and proud, others expressed their concern that this accolade would attract too many outsiders and that Bristol would lose what makes it special.
I don’t necessarily agree with this stance, but I do think that businesses like start-ups, who really benefit from the city’s strong community spirit, have a responsibility to give back and help maintain Bristol’s uniqueness as well as supporting the local economy.
Of course start-ups are usually enterprises that need to make money and profits, it’s crucial to their business success, but they also need to think carefully about how they in turn can benefit the community that supports them. This can take on various forms – supporting a local charity for example, hosting community events or maybe inviting aspiring young local entrepreneurs in for work experience.
But really this is not just a message for start-ups, it’s something all Bristolians should live by: keep buying from local independents, getting involved with local community events, supporting local charities, collaborating with working communities and launching initiatives of our own. Research on spending by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business, 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business.
By making a conscious effort to keep giving back to the Bristol community and economy we can all play a role in keeping its unique community spirit alive and well.
On Friday, 19 May at 5.30pm Konichiwa will be holding the third in the series of its ‘Indies in Bristol’ Startup Stories at The Bearpit, a chance for the people behind Bristol’s start-ups to come together, share challenges and aspirations and listen to talks by other startup entrepreneurs. Tickets are £5, include drinks and refreshments and available from www.startup-stories.eventbrite.co.uk