Since moving to the northwest from the south-east I have had some time to reflect on the advantages moving to the Wirral Peninsula has brought to my business and my lifestyle. Wirral is a very interesting geographical location situated between the estuaries of the Mersey and the Dee with Liverpool to the north and North Wales to the south. There are a number of wonderful towns and villages all over the peninsula with a population of around 320,295.
1. Entrepreneurship is evident all over the Wirral Peninsula
There is a real creative spirit on the Wirral, as in the North West as a whole, and it has managed to set the place apart. I have now settled in West Kirby after 15 years in and around Brighton and London and one of the first things to note in the town is that there are many, many cafés but not one big chain coffee place, no place here for Starbucks Mermaidy logo thing (Starbucks branding story is quite interesting in itself). This indicates to me that the creative people who own these cafés and coffee shops have worked to make them unique and to stand out from the quick coffee culture and highlight a more relaxed feel to getting coffee. This spirit of unique entrepreneurship is evident in many other ways, including my favourite example a barber in the pub. Building a brand when you look at the brand as being unique rather than a copy of something that already exists is easier than trying to do the same as others have already done. This is because differentiating your brand from the competition is key to successful brand development. My clients Morvélo would not be such an amazing brand to work with if they had just wanted to copy what Rapha are doing.
2. The large markets close by include Liverpool and Manchester
When I left the South Coast with Brighton just 7 miles away and London an hours train ride from my doorstep I worried that I might be distancing myself from all potential clients. This is far from the case with Liverpool just 10 miles away and Manchester just an hour or so away by car. The amount of business going on in these towns is amazing and Liverpool, in particular, is thriving compared to the town I left 16 years ago. Today, the chancellor announced that Manchester will keep 100% of growth in business rates which is a massive boost to a town that is growing very well already.
This chart illustrates that Liverpool is outstripping both Inner London and Brighton in Digital growth with growth over twice the national average. Manchester is looking very healthy too with growth almost 20% higher than the national average. This will boost all businesses in these areas, not just the digital sector as growth has a trickle-down effect to boost the economy.
3. The optimistic outlook of the North West is infectious
I have a lot of family in the North West so moving back here is a sort of homecoming in many ways. I was born in Manchester but brought up for much of my life in the South East, I can still remember when I was walking with my family when I was still little, and mom used to read reviews for baby strollers. The UK can seem a pessimistic place as it seems a very British trait to not want to give false hope to others, this can be seen more readily when contrasting the British demeanour with that of the US. The optimism I feel from people in the North West is less about projecting false hope and more about making the best with what we have to hand. With the skills coming into the area and the thought leaders already here this is far from false hope. Just as an example in Liverpool the Internet of Things is championed by a leading voice in the designing for the IoT, Adrian McEwen.
There is also a great initiative from the British Library to rollout Business and IP (Intellectual Property) Centres to some of the major cities across the North. I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the Business and IP Centre opening in Liverpool on the 29th of January. This is something to be optimistic about as it will help foster the spirit of entrepreneurship in these cities and provide the help to make these startups a success, I hope to be able to be involved in building success in the North West too.
4. Lifestyle is of paramount importance with the great outdoors being accessible for multiple uses
One of the things I love to do is get outdoors and use the spaces available for activities I enjoy. There are some amazing beaches on the Wirral peninsula and into North Wales along with some beautiful countryside. I love to cycle and some of the routes I am now discovering are brilliant. I hope to continue this exploration into North Wales too. I also enjoy getting out on the water and the Marine Lake in West Kirby provides me with some opportunities to do that with kayaking, sailing and windsurfing on offer. This makes the North West and the Wirral Peninsula, in particular, a great destination for visitors which provides a fresh market for our businesses which is a fantastic opportunity to have.
5. The welcome is unlike anywhere else
One thing I have found with living in the North West is that people will say hello no matter who you are. When I am out walking the dog strangers always have a smile and a greeting for me which is endearing after living in the South East for so long where many people seem to feel affronted if you make eye contact. Don’t think for a moment that I am saying that people from the South East are unfriendly, I have many great friends I have made over the years most of whom have the sunniest of dispositions, but there is a culture of keeping to oneself evident in the South East that is refreshingly absent in the North West. This helps me to feel happier and more optimistic in my outlook.