Overview: The business landscape in Bromley

Bromley’s Mayor, and former Small Business Champion, Cllr Hannah Gray (pictured) says, “Bromley is simply a great place to start and do business.”

It is good to remember that opinion as 2023 begins amid many stories of economic gloom and doom. You can listen to our most recent interview with Hannah below.

In June 2022, I wrote an article for the blog of Startups magazine entitled ‘The London borough of Bromley – a buzzing role model for business?’. The answer I gave was a positive one, and I see no reason to change it, despite genuine concern and harm caused by rising fuel and other costs and other factors.

Since that article was written, the Bromley Buzz website was created and then this blog. So, as the new year begins, I will revisit and expand on that earlier writing, using this blog, our new Bromley channel.

One thing has hardly changed. Our affection for the Start Up Bromley service – one based in three of Bromley’s libraries that provides working space, workshops and education opportunities for local businesspeople and people considering starting a business. In the Startups magazine article, it was a pleasure to quote David Smith, Economics Editor of The Sunday Times, saying that “Start Up Bromley is fantastic… a role model”.

Did you know that the first episode of the Bromley Buzz podcast was recorded in the Start Up Bromley business lounge in Bromley central library? If not, you do now. Take a listen.

Here, too, is an interview we conducted with staff from Start Up Bromley.

Is there an economic over view of Bromley? Well, yes, there is. You might like to read Bromley Council’s Economic Strategy 2021-2031 document here.

It sets out 7 ambitions:

1. Our residents have access to the right opportunities for skills and education that will ensure healthy employment

2. Our businesses have access to the right employment spaces in the right places with local business clusters which encourage enterprise and facilitate sustained growth

3. Our borough is an exciting, attractive, healthy, sustainable and welcoming place where businesses thrive, people aspire to live and visit, and new enterprises seek to invest

4. Our High Streets are places where people want to work, visit and live

5. Our residents and business community are well connected through diverse physical and digital infrastructure networks which underpins mobility across the whole borough

6. Our cultural and tourism industries continue to grow and diversify, and our unique historical features are promoted for the world to see

7. Our green economy will help to sustain and advance economic, environmental and social wellbeing

That was published in 2021, while the pandemic was unfolding, Brexit was having its impact, and before the invasion of Ukraine. Those strategic aims are still there to be delivered. We will be inviting Councillors and Council staff to share progress with us here and in our podcast. One item of news is that Bromley has funding as a Night Time Enterprise Zone – details here. Another is the opportunity (until mid-February) to bid for funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – see this post on the Bromley Business Hub website.

Do you know about Bromley’s BID’s? BID stands for Business Improvement District. These are locations that have organisations working for town centre high street businesses to encourage footfall and a better experience for people using those streets. In Bromley we have them in:

  • Bromley town centre – ‘Your Bromley’ – here. We interviewed two of Your Bromley’s team here.
  • Beckenham town centre – ‘Beckenham Together’ – here.
  • Orpington – ‘Orpington 1st‘ – here.
  • Penge BID – ‘Penge SE20’ – here.

They are behind numerous events, high street improvements, and communications that lift the places they are in. You can hear our interviews from Orpington 1st’s ‘Santa Dash’ in 2021 in our podcast here. Yes, we dashed in the Dash.

One of the other highlights of Bromley’s business scene is the Beckenham Business Association and the events it runs. We interviewed the Association Chair, Jane Rogers, here.

Businesspeople love to get together to network, to do business, learn, and, in some cases, be less lonely. This is another strength in Bromley, with opportunities including:

  • Local chapters of Business Networking International (BNI), such as BNI Lightning in Orpington, where you will find me half awake at 6.30am every Thursday.
  • Ladies Who Latte – here.
  • Federation of Small Business (FSB) events – here.
  • Business Over Breakfast (BOB) – here.
  • Rotary Clubs – Bromley club here.

Tip: local businessman (office supplies/branded workwear) Chandra Sharma is a local font of knowledge on networking and has himself founded or contributed to many groups, and won awards for doing so. Questions? Ask Chandra of Elmcroft Business Services.

Location, location, location… where do business people work from in Bromley?

Above: Sophie, Jaya and Aimee at Newman Flexible Workspace

Business people can work from their bedrooms or living rooms or garden offices (especially while at the ‘side hustle’ or start up stage), hot desk in shared locations, rent offices, or whole buildings. Some of the local opportunities for flexible working include:

Bromley has some special attractions beyond being a large, green borough with the assets I have already described. It has heritage and current stars. For example, David Bowie, Charles Darwin, HG Wells, Emma Raducanu and Dina Asher-Smith. It is a borough on the outskirts of London with a well-educated workforce (some of it supplied by London Colleges South East), many outstanding schools, and excellent transport links with railway stations and the M25 close by. There are several regular markets for makers and artisans across the borough from ones held at the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum to those at the Signature Care Home in Beckenham. Bromley has a lively arts scene, and is, simply, a lovely place to live, and to do business in.

If you’re reading this from outside Bromley, come and see for yourself. Take in the Churchill and other theatres here, award-winning restaurants such as the Copper Ceylon (we interviewed owner Haran here). And listen to more of our podcast episodes as we talk with more people in our business community.

Even as I write, new businesses are opening up in Bromley. There is a new bubble tea establishment where I live in Orpington to investigate, and in central Bromley my Bromley Buzz co-presenter Zeenat Noorani and I were some of the first people through the newly-opened doors of the Dorothy & Marshall restaurant in December, and we’ll be talking about that in the Bromley Buzz podcast.

Darren Weale, 4 January 2023

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