Thinking of setting up a business in Northern Ireland? Why not make the booming capital your base. In this guide, we’ll take you through all the benefits of running your business and franchising in the beating heart of Northern Ireland: Belfast.
Dublin or London may have been the centre of business for decades, but Belfast, too, has lots going for it. With a population of over 630,000, you’ll have access to a huge talent pool and plenty of opportunity for custom.
Let’s find out more about the pros and cons of franchising in Belfast.
An overview of Belfast
Belfast is Northern Ireland’s capital. It is the 12th largest city in the UK and the second largest on the island of Ireland. Ranked in the top 10 for productivity, it is an excellent place for businesses looking to do big things.
But what else makes it a fantastic base for a business?
Belfast is one of the most densely populated places in Northern Ireland, bringing lots of people within easy reach for your business. The population has grown steadily over the last few decades, so you can be confident that your client base will continue to grow as the city does.
The average age of Belfast residents is currently 38.5 years and this is expected to become older as the city grows. People moving to the city tend to be migrants, with many bringing new skills and experiences to the table, providing businesses with a larger talent pool to choose from.
In addition, Belfast is home to two highly rated universities: Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University. Queen’s University is ranked in the top one percent of universities worldwide, and it is a member of the research-intensive Russell Group. Similarly, Belfast Metropolitan College is the largest further education provider in Northern Ireland. All of these education facilities have great connections to businesses in the city and funnel swathes of talent those open to taking on new staff.
Despite Belfast’s prominence in the UK, it has much lower property costs than lots of other cities. For business owners, this means lower rental fees, helping to widen your profit margins. It is also a relatively small city, making it easy to travel around. This is a huge benefit to franchises offering mobile services, as you can reach a wide network of customers in fairly short journey times.
If you don’t drive, the bus and rail services will get you around the city for a reasonable price. With an airport just outside the city, you can easily get to destinations in the UK and Europe for business trips.
As Northern Ireland’s capital city, Belfast is also a key tourist location. People flock to the area to visit the Titanic museum, to see the castle and as a pitstop on their way to visit Giant’s Causeway. If your business is in the hospitality, leisure or retail sector, Belfast could be the perfect place to attract high levels of footfall.
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Running your own business in Belfast
Starting a new business in a capital city may feel daunting, but there are so many opportunities in Belfast to make it attractive. Here are some of the industries currently thriving in the city:
- Technology - Belfast is leading in the technology sector with 70 percent of IT professionals holding a higher education qualification - the highest proportion in the UK. This is partly thanks to Queen’s University, which boasts world-class cyber security research that supplies the city with both talent and innovation. It is no wonder why over 100 pioneering tech companies already have operations based here, including Fujitsu, SAP, Broadsoft and Whitehat Security.
- Manufacturing - Manufacturing has long since been integral to Belfast, with notable industries including shipbuilding and linen production. Today, manufacturing accounts for 15 percent of Belfast’s GVA and 11% of the city’s employment. In just seven years, the city experienced a 6.6 percent year-on-year growth. With strong ties to research and development, manufacturing in Belfast is set to shape the future of the industry.
- Financial services - Thanks to the many tech businesses in the city, Belfast’s financial services sector is leading the way in digital transformation. It is currently ranked as one of the top three fintech locations of the future, after London and Singapore.
- Food and drink - Surrounded by lush countryside, Belfast is in a prime position to source local fresh ingredients. Award-winning producers, including farmers and fishing businesses, provide restaurants, cafes and bars with some of the finest ingredients going, meaning the food scene is thriving in the city.
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Franchising in Belfast
A city of talent, innovation and great food - it’s clear that Belfast is an attractive place to live and work. It’s also a great place to base a business thanks to its networking opportunities.
Invest NI, a busines growth agency, has been set up in Belfast to help grow the local economy in Northern Ireland. Dedicated to helping businesses grow and compete internationally, and to attract new businesses to the area, the agency is transforming commerce in the city.
For franchisees, this source is invaluable. As well as benefiting from your franchisor’s advice, you can also gather local insights and become part of Belfast’s business network. If you are thinking of starting a business in the city, getting involved in the network is a great way to find opportunities.
Here at Point Franchise, we also offer a wide range of new business prospects for budding franchisees in Belfast. Take a look at franchises in technology, financial services and food and drink. Or if you’ve built experience in manufacturing, explore businesses that will value your transferable skills in the construction industry or one our many van-based companies.
If you’re thinking of taking your next steps to becoming a franchisee, do browse our helpful articles and guides. We create daily content designed to highlight the benefits and pitfalls of franchising to help businesses in all sectors to thrive in this lucrative format. Browse the entire catalogue or use the search bar to find answers to specific questions.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©