This article was written by Ahmed Alansari, Property Consultant at Morgan Pryce. It is a promotional piece on the unique phenomenon that is ‘Camden’.
Camden, once a mecca for any 1990s indie kid, has done some growing up, but it has still remains a unique enclave in the capital. With its market-stall heritage.
Camden was named after the first Earl Camden, Charles Pratt, who started the development of Camden Town in 1791, around what is now Camden High Street, but then was a coaching route to Hampstead and the north, surrounded by countryside. The canal was opened in 1820, but the eventual development of road transport in the fifties led to the canal falling out of use and industrial buildings into disrepair.
In the early seventies, however, the buildings started to be rented out on short leases, as craft workshops, leading to the opening of a craft market on a cobbled courtyard nearby. Traditional crafts were offered alongside antiques, clothing, and eventually food stalls. By the mid-eighties, the area had become a major tourist attraction, with canal boat trips and people flooding to the markets – there were now three. In 1984 one stallholder began to sell a selection of colourful bags. That stall was to become the international fashion bag giant, Radley.
Camden is arguably been the hub of the start-up business before the term ‘start-up’ was even coined. Many of the other areas in London that have, over the last few years, been preferred by start-ups and entrepreneurs have simply become unaffordable; (check out the Morgan Pryce Office Space calculator of idea of rental fees) ever bigger budgets are now needed to compete for the ‘best’ space, as rents have steadily increased over recent years because of lack of supply of original ‘creative’ space and a surge of demand. This means that places such as Shoreditch are now out of reach of the very people that brought the area into the creative-business limelight.
With the influx of visitors and tourists, the local businesses began to meet the need for cafes and restaurants, with fewer shops for locals.
And now? For innovative small businesses with unique character and, more importantly, a USP, Camden could be a great location to get things going. The history of the area, which has focused on community and collaboration in business (how else can a marketplace work?), has led to initiatives aimed at helping small businesses set up in Camden. Here are some examples:
The Camden Collective https://www.thecollective.co.uk/
A ‘pioneering project putting Camden Town at the heart of the UK’s creative community’. It aims to take the obstacles out of the path of small businesses thus easing the challenges faced by many start-ups and drawing potential new ideas and companies to the area.
The Camden Collective aims to create ‘hubs’ for co-working, allowing businesses and entrepreneurs a business- and creative-focused workplace without the expense and financial commitment – and risks – involved in formal property transactions. The hubs are deliberately chosen for flexibility, with movable internal structures to expand the reach to a variety of potential businesses. There is Wi-Fi, lockers, break-out areas, kitchen, and even a ping-pong table.
Camden Collective also focuses on training, including Accelerator Courses (a three-week course for creative start-ups) and a Coding Academy (an eight-week web development course).
Another focus of the Collective is to encourage pop-up shops into vacant units on the high street, encouraging footfall as well as variety in the retail environment – and providing a step-up to new retail businesses – a kind of post-recession market stall. The Collective takes on the space, refurbishes it in ‘blank canvas’ fashion, and then invites proposals from potential occupants. Spaces are available from as little as a couple of days to a couple of weeks, and partnering with another business is encouraged too.
Camden Means Business http://camdenmeansbusiness.co.uk/
This is part of the larger project, London Means Business, and organises networking and training opportunities and seminars, particularly for small businesses and self-employed/single-director businesses, which make up a significant 74% of SMEs.
Camden Town Unlimited (CTU) http://www.camdentownunlimited.com/
The CTU was ‘appointed by the business community to improve Camden Town as a place to work, live and visit’. It represents the local businesses and has a wide remit, working with the local council, TfL, central government and private sector stakeholders. It strives to market Camden and its vibrant business district, both locally and internationally, and has been involved in projects just as a local loyalty card scheme and street regeneration. Among other SME-focused services, CTU provides free recycling to its business members, claiming to save them around £430 per business.
Camden council has initiated forward-thinking plans for its borough, including constructing a range of energy-efficient apartments at Maiden Lane Estate. The local authority’s Community Investment Project allows it to return the profits made from such developments into local neighbourhoods. This, together with other factors such as the council-run Camden Small Business Awards, and the council’s 2013 proposed focus on Camden Town as a ‘Growth Area’, mean that this could be the ideal time to focus on Camden as the location of your business.
So, as Camden takes the stage, with its collaborative business cast, perhaps you might like to be on it…