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On the radar: Liverpool

The latest in a series profiling three companies at different stages of business life, looking at the influence the city in which they are based has had on their business journey so far. This month, we explore Liverpool.

Last updated: 17 Jul 2020 5 min read

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From the Beatles to the historic dockside, Liverpool is renowned for innovation. But what’s it like to run a business in this Merseyside powerhouse?

The start-up: the Magical Beatles Museum, founded 2018

In July 2018, this one-stop shop of original Beatles memorabilia and artefacts – the largest display of its kind in the world – opened its doors. Despite not yet marking its first birthday, the museum has been nominated for business awards and is listed 12th out of 199 ‘things do to in Liverpool on TripAdvisor.

Its business development manager, Sarah Worsley, says: “It’s a very exciting time to be a start-up business in Liverpool, especially being a Beatles tourist attraction. It’s estimated that the Beatles industry attracts £81m to the local economy [and] Liverpool is the birthplace of the Beatles, so naturally Liverpool was the perfect location.”

Worsley says networking is key to becoming successful: the museum’s neighbours at the Cavern Club and the Hard Days Night Hotel have played promotional videos and shared offers. “We employ staff with a special interest in the subject,” adds Worsley. “Their passion for preserving the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world is second to none, and they’re as much an asset as George Harrison’s guitar. The right people in the right place is essential.

“Liverpool is a fantastic city with many strings to its bow. It’s extremely easy to get around. The impact of winning the European capital of culture 2008 continues to resonate 11 years later,” she says. “Much investment has gone into the city and it has transformed into a thriving, multicultural epicentre of the North. We’re very proud of our heritage and the strength, resilience and sense of humour of its people.”

And her advice to wannabe business owners in the city? “Don’t be afraid to ask a question, ever. The majority of people will help with contacts, ideas, experience – they just need to be asked.”

The fast-tracker: Independent Liverpool, founded 2013

David Williams co-founded Independent Liverpool, an online guide to independent shops, bars, restaurants and other local businesses, with his friend Oliver Press after noticing that four branches of a coffee shop chain had opened in one square mile in under a year – and envisaged Liverpool “turning into a scene out of Scooby-Doo where everything was the same”.

Williams says: “Liverpool has never been like any other city and we just wanted to write that down and remind people. We’ve now grown to 120,000 followers, 88,000 Twitter followers and 85,000 Instagram followers, and we get close to 300,000 unique visitors every month on our website.”

As well as being a guide, Independent Liverpool offers a discount card for the city’s hidden gems. And, two years ago, the company was named ‘the most influential in Liverpool’s food and drink industry’ at the Liverpool Food And Drink Festival awards.

“Come with a genuine and honest business with an open mindset and you’ll get noticed”David Williams, co-founder, Independent Liverpool

So, how has the city influenced these accidental entrepreneurs? Williams says the number of people who took the pair under their wings after hearing about the then-fledgling company was “incredible” – and a testament to the city's ethos. “Liverpool really is the place to be right now,” says Williams. “As well as a great city centre, there’s pockets of the city developing all the time. Most recently, the Baltic Triangle, Liverpool’s extension of the city centre, was voted the coolest place in the UK to live by the Sunday Times.

“It’s so good to be surrounded with so many inspirational and creative people, too; it really keeps you going and makes you realise that you’re part of this massive common goal to get Liverpool on the map.”

He says would-be business owners should investigate the areas of the city outside the centre, as rents are lower and the people are inspirational and creative. “Don’t just assume that because Liverpool people are proud and passionate that they’re soft,” he says. “Come with a genuine and honest business with an open mindset and you’ll get noticed. Things spread really quick in Liverpool – a lot of people describe it as a village as it can feel so small sometimes, so I’d say use that to your advantage.”

The established SME: RS Clare, founded 1748

RS Clare began distilling turpentine before moving on to tar, and now focuses exclusively on industrial lubricants for the rail, oil and gas industries. “We’re proud to be hailed the oldest manufacturer on Merseyside, but in spite of that heritage our business is comparatively unknown in the city,” says Eve Pybis, the firm’s senior marketing executive.

This stalwart of Liverpool ploughs £8m annually into the local economy and employs 80 people on its Merseyside site – with 100 more in London. “Baltic has been our home now for almost 250 years, RS Clare has survived and prospered, and we continue to play a role in sharing that success with our community,” says Pybis. In 2014, RS Clare decided to invest 0.5% of its annual pre-tax profits into the community, on various projects.

Pybis adds: “Our Liverpool heritage is the foundation for our initial and continued success, a heritage that we’re very proud of. Through strategic realignment and a focus on research and development we’ve been able to not only safeguard jobs, but also continue to hire as we continue to grow.”

The company’s retention rates – 37.5% of staff have been there for at least 10 years – demonstrates loyalty, stability and job security, she says. “The excellent transport links also make it easier to attract the high calibre of candidates and we are proud of our quality policy that underpins our recruitment endeavours.”

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