Small Business Heroes

Camden: Geek vs Chic

16 Jan 2014

The Goths, Hippies and Mods who used to gather on the streets and around the lock provided Camden with its edgier reputation. But since those early days, while the Goths and Hippies are still very much part of the community, a quiet entrepreneurial revolution has been happening.

Last year 25,000 businesses were formed in the borough and the prognosis for these businesses is good. The 5 year survival rate is 43% and those that make it tend to be more successful with 13.7% of Camden’s enterprises having £1m+ turnovers compared with 10.9% for London and only 9.3% for the UK.

Camden’s employees are well paid too. They typically take home £37,247 pa – substantially better than the London average which sits at £32,509. 

Creative, technical or retail?

Although Camden is world famous for alternative fashion, vintage shopping and unique jewellery, retail only makes up 6% of Camden’s industry and is showing no signs of growth. In fact the proportion of empty shops in the borough showed a small increase last year.

And’s it’s not the creative sector that is dominant in Camden either – it is no bigger than average representing only 5.6% of Camden businesses.

Perhaps surprisingly, it is the Professional, Scientific and Technical sector that make up the biggest economic group in Camden with 30.6% in comparison to only 20.3% in London as a whole. This is also the largest sector in Camden by employment, accounting for 22% of employment compared to 13% in London overall.

Survival of the fittest

When it came time for OMdeSIGN to leave their Northern roots and make the transition to London they tell us that choosing to set up in Camden was a “no brainer”.

Specialising in Ecommerce, Website Design, Web Development, Copywriting and Branding OMdeSIGN need to mix technical skills with creativity and this North London borough seems like the perfect place to do that.

Marek from the firm tells us that “Camden has an almost organic pace or rhythm like no other.  Just walking to work each day can give you so much inspiration. When we are ‘stuck’ all we have to do is go for a walk and come back full of new ideas!”

Aside from the obvious influential benefits of working in such a colourful postcode, the uniquely eclectic mix of surrounding businesses makes trade from neighbours exciting, in Marek’s words “Each day is like the first day on the job – you never know what awaits you. It’s felt like this from the day we opened our Camden office and it still does; that’s the real magic of this place and what makes our job so fantastically unpredictable”

But as the Geek revolution takes place and the competition hots up, the most successful firms are needing to differentiate their proposition to avoid becoming lost in the mix.

OMdeSIGN’s uniqueness compliments the individuality of the area. Marek explains that “There are other studios offering similar services but we target a slightly different market. We offer a boutique experience; it’s a completely bespoke service so our customers end up with a one of a kind solution. It takes longer to develop, but if you are willing to invest both time and money it will pay off in the end.” Other studios offer quick websites and some are all about being the cheapest but in NW1 there’s a market for all of them if they do it well.

So why Camden?

The evidence would suggest that despite its alternative reputation Camden could well be the new “Silicon” hub in London. If Geek is the new Chic who knows what could be on the horizon if our techies are inspired by the essence of Camden.

Keir Wright-Whyte


Managing Director

0207 043 4000

About the author

Originally graduating with a degree in geography from Edinburgh University, Keir claims that he was then tricked into becoming an accountant by one of the UK's top 5 accountancy practices.The deception extended to the usual training in audit and associated activities.

Keir subsequently worked in a number of advisory roles with clients including in the energy trading, pharmaceuticals and financial services sectors.

He loves working at Accounts & Legal because of the variety of work and clients, the excellent team ethos and morale, the importance placed on genuinely helping and being useful for clients and because he believes what he does matters to clients and helps the firm.

Keir's primary role is to ensure that new clients with complex businesses or needs are on-boarded in the best way and he is a "trouble shooter" both for clients and where complex issues arise internally. He also helps the accounting teams strive to improve what we do for clients, whether processes or services.

When not debiting or crediting, Keir has a penchant for fixing old buildings, skiing, surfing and cycling.


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