If Croydon had a middle name it would surely be perseverance.
No fewer than five failed bids from 1977-2012 to become a city are at the heart of what is driving small businesses in the town forward to grow and prosper.
Croydon boasts a lively and distinct networking scene which is similar to that seen at Silicon Roundabout (Shoreditch) or Silicon Beach (Brighton). You’d only have to pay one visit to the legendary Cain and Beer curry nights, or experienced ForeBusiness networking at Selsdon Park, or indeed visit We Mean Business at Fairfield Halls to understand. What you get when you attend these events and others like them is a sense of optimism and drive from the local business community, coupled with a distinct realisation that they have to get out and make it happen.
This energy is reflected in the statistics boasted by Croydon’s Tech city website which states there are over a thousand tech star-tups already in Croydon. ONS says that figure grew by 38% between 2011 and 2013 making it London’s fastest growing tech start-up scene.
One of the things that makes this happen is some kind of informal alliance between public, private and educational sector in seeing the importance of encouraging this. Here Croydon has scored well attracting the Sussex Innovation Centre from Sussex University to open its second of three centres in the town in 2015.
In addition Croydon’s transport infrastructure has developed alongside its tech start-ups with tram services extending all the way to Wimbledon in 2016 and the rolling development of East Croydon station from 2010 bearing fruit in having produced a much more welcoming environment than haggard commuters of yore will remember.
Some commentators have felt that the continued pace of public and private development in Croydon may serve to hamper the small business and start-up scene but in my view this is counterintuitive. Central London has always benefited rather than suffered from this and I think Croydon does too.
The latest Croydon 2020 Vision shows the sort of forward thinking that small ambitious business owners want to see and be involved with and whilst managing large scale construction in built up and congested areas is challenging, over the last couple of decades we have become rather good at this in the UK.
Small businesses in Croydon benefit from its mixed demography and access to skills and an associated impact of this is that Croydon central is a marginal constituency. This is good news for small businesses as it means you get an MP who if he wants to be re-elected has to take account of this important representation of their constituents. In part this lobbying responsibility is one carried out by the excellent Chamber of Commerce in Croydon which provides this platform of access amongst its benefits.
Croydon is a good place to start or locate your small business because it has the nexus of three significant benefits, an excellent and improving transport system, a huge cluster of likeminded, driven and energetic business people, and finally the political will to make some things happen supported by a co-ordinated effort of state and semi-state bodies related to the space.
If you would like to discuss expanding or starting up your business in Croydon or surrounding areas, contact your local Business Doctors Chris Simpson or Chris Sowerby for more information. Alternatively request a free business health check.