Manchester might sometimes be overlooked by entrepreneurs in favour of London, but it turns out it’s a serious contender for the title of best city to launch your business. With three excellent universities, world class football clubs, the headquarters of the BBC and a refurbished and extended tram system which rivals TFL, Manchester makes for a truly nurturing city to grow your business.
Amongst the many things that Manchester lays claim to, aside from some of the world’s most iconic bands, being the birthplace of the computer and bringing the joy of “chips and gravy” to the world, is its claim to some incredible and unique businesses that have chosen to call it home. After much deliberation we came up with our top 10 pick of cool companies in Manchester; from tech start-ups to creative agencies to delicious cupcake bakers, we caught up with these cool small businesses to discuss what they do and why Manchester is THE place to be.
What they do: Started by 3 friends, Fatsoma is a social media platform for events. It helps users find cool things to do that cater to their interests, putting them in control, while delivering hungry audiences to promoters. It’s used by thousands of businesses and has 100’s of thousands of members making it difficult to say there’s nothing to do tonight!
Why they’re cool: I’m fairly sure combining fun events with nifty technology is the definition of “cool”. Heading the burgeoning tech scene in Manchester and taking on the world with their relaxed atmosphere and non-hierarchical structure, Fatsoma makes it easy for you to event on the go and ensures you’ll never be bored on a random Monday night when you have a hankering for some techno beats.
Why they love Manchester: “There’s a fantastic tech scene epicentre around spaces like the brilliant SpaceportX, MadLab and others that means knowledge spreads fast because you’ve got a load of intelligent people in close quarters sharing information. Plus there’s brilliant transport links to other cities.”
Andrew Allsop, Marketing Manager
Manchester Craft and Design Centre
Employees: 5 Management and 30 arts and craft makers
What they do: In the centre of Manchester’s creative Northern quarter, in studios that formerly housed a fish market (pretty darn cool if you ask me), you can find 30 unique arts and craft makers who create and sell their handmade array of splendours. From textiles to pewter to jewellery you’ll only find unique non mass produced gems here.
Why they’re cool: No one at Craft and Design need even try to be cool, it just comes naturally. They have a genuine passion to create beauty in bold and contemporary ways, which shines through all their work. Enjoy a laid back experience at Craft and Design, shop for one of a kind pieces, take breaks to coffee at their cool café and relax while meandering around taking in the energy of the site.
Why they love Manchester: “Manchester is the Original Modern city. It’s accepting of difference, embracing what’s new and integrating it with the traditional, turning it on its head. Manchester’s people are fiercely proud and wonderfully pragmatic. We love to support our own and we welcome new ideas and run with them.”
Clare Simpson, Marketing & Digital Manager
Address: Manchester Craft & Design Centre, 17 Oak Street, Manchester M4 5JD
The 8th Day
What they do: The last decade has been all about moving towards health conscious food choices and more people are opting for meat free living than ever before. The 8th day is a staple in Manchester’s quest for delicious-and-nutritious-ness and has been serving up their vegetarian delights at their cafe and health food shop for more than 40 years. You can sit down and take in the ambience or grab a scrumptious take away and eat on the go. From organic and natural wholefoods, herbal supplements, , artisan and fairtrade produce to organic wine and beer, they really do have it all.
Why they’re cool: The 8th Day was cool before it became cool to be vegetarian, making them trendsetters as well as veterans. Even though they’ve been around so long, they’ve remained close to their roots keeping their business authentic, ethical and intimate. Being a co-operative means that all staff have a say in how the business is run, making for a harmonious and fair environment.
Why they love Manchester: “Manchester is a vibrant and resilient city and has a long history of influencing social change and radical ideas, it’s also the home of the Co-operative movement and the Vegetarian Society and many other organisations which try to do things a little differently.”
Jeniya Marsh PR & Marketing Manager
Address: The 8th Day Co-Operative Ltd, 111 Oxford Road, Manchester, M1 7DU
What they do: They’ve been around for a cool 130 odd years, so it’s probably safe to say they’re here to stay. It is a family run business which spans 3 floors and sells over 25 000 products to spur on your personal creativity. You can find anything arts and crafts related here, from materials to supplies to books. Plus, you can rent out their studios and do some lasering yourself.
Why they’re cool: Fred Aldous is cool because it adds an extra element of magic to your creative process. Let your imagination go wild from choice and when you feel as if your creativity might just boil over, take a break in one of their vintage chemical photo booths. The staff at Fred Aldous aren’t too ‘hip’ to express their passion and enthusiasm for their products. These people love arts and crafts, and that’s cool!
Why they love Manchester: “Manchester is a city of innovation and risk taking. It is constantly reinventing itself and this presents new and exciting opportunities for businesses based here. It’s also the people who live and work in Manchester that make this city great, their friendliness and warmth are unrivalled and that’s why we’ve stuck around for so long!”
Ali Gunn, Marketing Manager
Address: Crowne Plaza Manchester City Centre, 37 Lever Street, Manchester, M1 1LW
Hey Little Cupcake!
What they do: From humble beginnings in Sarah’s home kitchen, Hey Little Cupcake has blossomed into a fully-fledged boutique bakery packaged in a quirky coffee shop. It serves freshly baked, mouth-watering treats 7 days a week to hordes of sweet toothed fans. It’s gone from a 4 month pop up shop to Manchester’s go to sugar fix in just a few years. Expect deliciousness.
Why they’re cool: This isn’t your average bakery and Hey Little Cupckae pride themselves on pushing boundaries to deliver beautiful and unique delights. Whether for your wedding, a special occasion or just a mid-week visit you’ll be addicted from the first sultry bite. They will never serve you anything ordinary, so add a pinch of quirkiness and a whirl of epic flavour to your day by visiting this sweet treat haven.
Why they love Manchester: “Because it’s a fantastic city that loves cake, individuality and creativity.”
Sarah Wilson-Gibbons , Director
Address: Hey Little Cupcake, 2 Hardman Street, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3HF
What they do: Brothers Andrew and David have developed ground breaking technology which profiles people’s personalities based on their music taste! Yep, you read correctly. They’ve come up with an algorithm which combines research in psychology and music to retrieve a personality rating with the same accuracy as your average 50 question written or online test. The implications for businesses and market research are huge, plus the idea is just a little mind blowing!
Why they’re cool: Well, it’s like something out of a sci-fi movie, so cool it’s a little bit frightening! Andrew and David have a passion for music, psychology and all things techie and have culminated these into one of the most unique products to hit the country in a long time! The technology is a game changer for the industry and makes huge leaps in time and efficiency saving.
Why they love Manchester: “Two reasons: Talent and cost. The abundance of untapped talent in the city is unparalleled. Manchester is on the cusp of breaking out, with all the creative people located in such small proximity to each other and an abundance of computer science graduates coming from three world-class universities. It’s a lot of young people just hungry to prove themselves out in the real-world, so they don’t ask for as much as their London counterparts.”
Dr. Andrew Ko, CEO
Gingers Comfort Emporium
What they do: Ginger’s Comfort Emporium makes authentic, creamy, dairy ice cream with flavours which intoxicate and inspire. They sell their seductive and inventive creations from the Ginger Wagon which you’ll be sure to find at farmer’s markets, food festivals and music festivals as well as at their permanent ice-cream bar in Afflecks Palace in the Northern Quarter.
Why they’re cool: With sophisticated and creative flavour combinations such as spiced rum, plum gin and juniper; and extra virgin olive oil, Hawaiian black salt and strawberry they’ll never fail to dazzle. Ginger’s makes ice-cream in the style of a decadent bygone era. However, at the end of the day, they make delectable ice cream – which makes people happy. And making people happy is one of the coolest things you can do.
Why they love Manchester: “The integration of so many small food businesses, entrepreneurs, local producers, street food vendors – we all support each other, trade with each other and have grown our businesses together. Also Manchester’s a curious city that will embrace new ideas.”
Claire Kelsey, Owner
The fresh Group
What they do: The fresh Group is a multi-award winning full-service agency, specialising in events, design, content, film, digital and exhibitions all under one insanely creative roof. They push boundaries and deliver unique and quality work to an array of high profile clients.
Why they’re cool: The fresh Group generate their continued inspiration and out the box ideas by fostering a dynamic and creative environment. They focus on keeping staff happy and engaged in a truly collaborative office. As a result, their the work continues to stay fresh and cool, exceeding client expectations and cleaning up at awards.
Why they love Manchester: “Everything we do at fresh is confirmation that the North West is fast becoming established as a key European communications hub. We take great pride in our South Manchester roots and, although we now have a central London office, it will always be a ‘satellite’. We are proud of the part we believe we can play in developing the North West as a centre of excellence for media and communications”
Patrick Howells, Managing Director
Eastern Bloc Records
What they do: Eastern bloc Records sell quality niche music on vinyl (and C.D.s), specialising in drum & bass, jungle, dubstep, house, techno and electronica. They have been an integral part of the Manchester music scene since the 1980s and have had an impact on music around the world. They have a rich history of helping to launch names including that of the Inspiral Carpets.
Why they’re cool: Not sure you get much cooler than selling Vinyl; however, what lifts these guys above the rest is their knowledge and passion for music. There is no faking the pure love of the art, and you can feel it as soon as you enter their doors.
“We don’t try to be cool, we just exist as we are.” Jim Spratling
Why they love Manchester: “We have been here since 1985 and seen the Manchester music scene change and develop for all that time. We always keep on top of what is current and relevant. Manchester is very current and relevant.”
Address: 5A Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter, Manchester, United Kingdom, M1 1DN
What they do: Junk Shop sells ecological, recycled vintage clothing and jewellery, that has been reworked and revived into beauteous fashion items. Winner of The BOMA Awards for ‘Best Independent Retailer in Manchester’ 2010, they showcase talented young designers in their eye-opening retail space brought to life by reclaimed doors and wardrobes.
Why they’re cool: This is fashion with a heart, soul and rhythm. Junk shop creates masterpieces which inspire individuality and self-expression while caring for the environment. They focus on sustainable living, knowledge passing through training and believe in the concept of imaginative recycling. All that makes them epically cool.
Why they love Manchester: “Manchester is a young and vibrant city, the 3 Universities combine to bring an influx of new people every year with many staying on. The population is growing and the city thriving. Manchester is the perfect setting for Junk Shop with the cotton and textile industry background and we’re proud to be putting something back into the Manchester community.”
Address: Junk Shop, 2 Dale Street, Manchester M1 1JW