Copeland has been dubbed the perfect place for start-ups and entrepreneurs to grow and prosper.

A discussion on the borough's opportunities was held last week, which saw managing director of The Entrepreneurs Group, Keith McMean, joined by Copeland’s MP Trudy Harrison and Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland, for an online webinar, hosted by young entrepreneur, Oliver Hodgson.

The 30-minute discussion delved into replicating the success of Millom’s high street and business community across the borough, as well as talking about the best ways to test markets and how the local organisations are helping young people start out in business.

Speaking post discussion, Keith McMean said: “My hope for the area is that it becomes a hub for start-ups and entrepreneurs, and that not only our young people are given the opportunity to start a new business, but that everyone who has an idea ‘has a chance’."

He continued: "Without entrepreneurs and start-ups, the road to recovery will be a long and difficult one.

“I would also like to see the over 50’s think about starting a business. One thing we do know is that Covid-19 has changed the employment market irreversibly and has made it even harder for older workers aged 50-plus to find a job.

"We want to help change that too, by giving older people a platform through which they can take back control of their lives by launching a business of their own."

The discussion was prompted following the release of various studies, highlighting that young people want to start their own business before the age of 30, as well as the opening of Whitehaven’s new Bus Station business complex.

All on the panel shared the view that young people in business – and people taking the risk of starting a business in any circumstance – should be championed.

MP Trudy Harrison outlined the abundance of possibilities in Copeland, and said: “I think our natural landscape is a big part of our draw to set up businesses here.

"So many of us in the last year or so have appreciated working from home and being closer to our community. Not to say all start-ups do start from home, but the new working from home environment is obviously going to be a major part of it.

"We are well connected here, and the sheer number of business groups we have, for women in business, young people and groups who are eager to support youthful entrepreneurs."

She continued: “As an area and a community, we really do value our entrepreneurs, risk-takers, engineers, and those with the ideas, because they are going to solve the problems of the future.

"People will be well supported around here and much needed because we do need to diversify from the nuclear industry, but we can do this in spin-offs that age decommissioning.

“To anyone looking to start a business my top tips would be to do your research, understand and manage the risk and remember that you are the only person holding you back.”

Mr Starkie added: “Back in 2015, we ran two conferences to get the message out that Copeland is open for business, and that it is a good place to do business.

“The way we measure that is, six years down the line, the council is earning more than one million pound more in business rates, per annum, than we were in 2015.

“It’s easy to look down King Street and see there are lots of empty units, but that’s an issue facing most towns throughout England."

He continued: “The reality is that there isn’t any less businesses in 2021, as there were in 2005. Some of the larger retailers have gone and, of course, the others aren’t going to set up in Whitehaven if they already have outlets in Workington.

“That’s why the offer in Whitehaven has got to be different and new, that’s why we are looking at setting up a digital grid in Whitehaven, offering a more modern destination and opening up more tourism and hospitality opportunities.

“One of the things which has worked against entrepreneurism in the area is that there are so many well-paid jobs in Copeland, and so we’ve got to drive diversity in the area.

"Sellafield is in decommissioning mode, that’s going to change, but with that, it’s going to bring a raft of new and, in some cases, better opportunities.”