What is running a business in Glasgow like?

The next stop for the Virgin Media Business Voom Tour sees the big red bus heading to Glasgow.

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Population: 608,543

Pros: Great transport links around the city, offices relatively cheap, strong work ethic.

Cons: Strong competition, national and international travel can be challenging.

What to expect: A supportive business community, and an inspiring and thriving city.

As the Voom Tour bus heads north of the border for the first time, we spoke to Helen Vass, founder of Dulce by Helen Vass, Mike Conyers, founder of ResDiary, and Briony Cullin, founder of The Glasgow Food Company to find out more about business in Glasgow.

What are the best things about doing business in Glasgow?

Helen Vass: The best thing about doing business in Glasgow is that people here are up for a good time and are looking for new experiences. The people of Glasgow have a sweet tooth, which for me is ideal since I deal with patisserie!

Mike Conyers: Glasgow has excellent transport links within the city and the surrounding areas and the office accommodation is a huge plus: city centre offices are plentiful and not too expensive. Most importantly though, the people in the city are what make it. There's a real can-do, co-operative, attitude among businesses and a strong work ethic to do well. 

Briony Cullin: Glasgow is such a creative and inspiring city. If I'm ever feeling in need of a pep, I just take a walk around Merchant City or the southside and I find that really reinvigorates me.

What are the downsides?

HV: There are a lot of new food and drink businesses opening in the city which means that competition is even more fierce than ever. For me it is also difficult for people to value high end patisserie as we are surrounded by high street chains selling cheap and industrial sweets and desserts. However, I know that this are changing and people are starting to value artisan and gourmet food. 

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MC: One of the main downsides is national and world-wide travel. If a large part of your market is London and beyond, then travelling there can be a problem. We have an emerging market in Dubai and Asia, and although Emirates serve Glasgow with Dubai as a hub, the prices can be very steep. 

BC: It's a smaller city than I'm used to (I'm from Melbourne, Australia) but I see that as a positive – I can get everywhere in 20 minutes and most of the time when I met someone new, they know someone I know. It's a very small community of people but provided you have a good reputation, that's a good thing!

How would you describe the business culture of Glasgow?

HV: The business culture in Glasgow is thriving and there are lots of entrepeneurs out there trying to do their best and make Glasgow an even better city. There are lots of opportunities to network with other business owners and there are lots of opportunities.

MC: The business culture in Glasgow is supportive, especially in helping young, growing businesses. Assistance with rate rebates, coaching and trade trips are available and enterprises like Business Gateway, Scottish Development International, and Scottish Enterprise do all they can to improve the business culture. 

BC: I'd say it's very supportive and encouraging. I'm a member of a couple of networking groups and find that people are always willing to give you advice and referrals.

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What tips would you have for anyone thinking of starting a business in Glasgow?

HV: Go for it! What have you to lose?! The worst thing that could happen is you fail, but from failure there is always opportunity! Think carefully, take it slowly and do your research, follow your gut feeling. If you are passionate about what you do, you will succeed.

MC: Recruit the best people you can and remember, nothing happens until somebody sells something. Focus on revenue and don't burn cash. ResDiary was bootstrapped with just over a hundred thousand pounds and we're now a multi-million pound business with staff across the world through following that philosophy. 

BC: Get out there and meet people. Glaswegians are incredibly friendly and helpful, and if you take the time to get to know people without trying to sell them anything, it will really help your business grow.

The Virgin Media Business Voom Tour will be in Glasgow on November 2nd, head to the Virgin Media Business website to find out more.

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