County celebrates bumper rise in start-ups in 2019 – despite ‘turbulent’ year

Vegan cafe owner Allison Knight, one of hundreds of people to set up in business in 2019 in Suffolk

Vegan cafe owner Allison Knight, one of hundreds of people to set up in business in 2019 in Suffolk Picture: ALLISON KNIGHT - Credit: ALLISON KNIGHT

Suffolk has enjoyed a record year for company start-ups as more entrepreneurs decide to throw their hat in the ring, new figures suggest.

John Korchak, director of operations at company secretarial software firm Inform Direct Picture: KE

John Korchak, director of operations at company secretarial software firm Inform Direct Picture: KEITH MINDHAM - Credit: Photo: Keith Mindham

Despite a tumultuous year of political and economic challenges, 2019 saw 4,518 new companies registered in the country, compared 4,292 in 2018 - a 5.3% rise.

The total number of registered companies in Suffolk rose to 36,907 - up from 35,510 at the end of 2018, according to Ipswich-based Inform Direct, which compiled its Review of Company Formations using data from Companies House and the Office for National Statistics.

The increase equates to 3.9% growth in the number of businesses.

Ipswich formed the highest number of new businesses with 1,060 - bringing the total number of businesses to 6555. It was followed by Suffolk Coastal with 671, creating a new total of 6022 firms, and St Edmundsbury at 610, bringing its tally to 6120, the figures show.

Alex Till, chief executive of Menta Picture: i101 DIGITAL

Alex Till, chief executive of Menta Picture: i101 DIGITAL - Credit: Archant

MORE - Is there a future for key Bosch factory site and its workers after 135 staff laid off?Mid Suffolk saw 603 start-ups in 2019, against a total of 5617, 543 companies were launched in Forest Heath, making a total of 3086, and Babergh had 505 new business launches, bringing its total to 4805.

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Allison Knight was among them. She launched her vegan café from a former butcher's shop in Bury St Edmunds in May 2019.

Her first concerns on deciding to open Allison's Eatery Vegan Café & Shop in St Olaves Precinct were finding customers and the right staff, but having run a vegan catering van which was a regular at the town's market had already helped generate a strong social media following, which helped.

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"The first day the café opened, I was overwhelmed with customers wishing me luck and supporting me. It was a bank holiday and the place was vibrant and busy," she recalls.

Positive reviews on Facebook had been heart-warming, she says, and, with a noticeboard inside, the café was fast becoming a community hub, she adds.

Following the closure of St Olaves Post Office, she has now applied to take on the postmistress role for the area, which would provide another string to the business's bow, and a welcome income stream - if her bid is successful.

"It's paying the bills so at this stage that's all I can ask for," she says of her new business. "We have not done too badly so fingers crossed it will carry on being quite steady."

The café has given structure to her life, she says. "Business wise I think what has surprised me is the interest," she says. "I have met some lovely people, and people on the estate have really taken me into their community."

Following the closure of the St Olaves Post Office, she has applied to become the local Post Office' facility, which will hopefully be available in the next few months.

John Korchak, director of operations at Inform Direct - a company secretarial software firm - said: "Reporting a record year - the second in a row - for new company formations in Suffolk during a turbulent year, politically and economically, is a major achievement. Attracting new ventures and encouraging entrepreneurs to set up there, means that the county is clearly delivering positive support for business.

"With Brexit uncertainty casting a shadow - and some companies experiencing falling sales or choosing to relocate internationally - it is heartening that we are seeing signs of business optimism with so many new companies being created. This picture is mirrored nationally with an all-time high of nearly 700,000 new businesses formed in the UK as a whole."

Alongside this record number of UK company formations - 690,763 compared to 669,855 in 2018 - the overall number of UK companies also continued to grow, with a new high of 4,471,008, a 3.8% increase on the total of 4,308,022 at the end of 2018.

Alex Till, chief executive at business support organisation Menta, said its own statistics showed a rise in demand for new business start-up support and training across Suffolk.

"Our tracking has shown that Ipswich, Felixstowe and Woodbridge areas of the county have seen a 20% increase in demand for our entrepreneurial support - with Bury and Brandon again showing more people inquiring on this time last year - on how they can become their own boss and start a new business venture," he said.

"I think we are seeing a period where many people are reassessing their own work and business plans and with Suffolk's tech manufacturing and creative individuals forging ahead with their business developments."

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