Help to improve your exports - Business Works
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Help to improve your exports

J o Fairley, co-founder of the premium organic chocolate brand Green & Black's, recounted the history of her business from a flat in Portobello Road to its current status as "the world’s first global Fair Trade brand", with an annual turnover of around £40 million to 90 companies at the UK Trade & Investment’s (UKTI) Gateway to Global Growth presentation.

As well as luck and a passionate commitment to your product, she noted that good planning is needed to give your business the best chance of success. She admitted that Green & Black’s early export development had been somewhat haphazard, a question of learning from their mistakes, and wished she’d had recourse to the sort of expert advice and assistance that UKTI offers through Gateway.

"You need to be wary when setting up distributor deals and I wish I’d had UKTI to help me with this. Distributors can end up virtually owning your brand in their markets if you’re not careful," she said.

One company that has already taken advantage of the Gateway service is West London translations company TranslateMedia. Company CEO Patrick Eve spoke of how its support had helped take the companies export business to a new level, with the value of sales rising from £500,000 in 2008 to an expected £4.5 million in 2011. He highlighted the services that had been key to this growth:

  • UKTI advice to identify the most appropriate international trade shows and funding to cover some of the costs of attendance;
  • the Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS) – providing funding for in-market research projects; and
  • the Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).

Patrick described OMIS as ‘incredibly valuable’, providing bespoke support from UKTI experts based in export markets to arrange introductions to potential clients, assist during overseas visits, analyse market entry strategies, and give market and sector-based advice. An OMIS report commissioned by TranslateMedia from UKTI in New York led to long-term agreements to supply translation services to UN agencies UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR and the International Trade Centre in Geneva.

Patrick Eve concluded: "Approaching UKTI and going on the Gateway programme was a really important step for us. And OMIS is like a great Italian restaurant you have found, but don’t want anyone else to know about because you want to keep it to yourself!"

UKTI introduced the Gateway programme nationally in April 2009. To date, 408 London-based companies (168 in 2009-10; 240 in 2010-11 to date) have signed up.

The programme has been a real success for UKTI’s customers, at a time when doing business overseas is so important to economic growth yet is becoming ever more competitive. Of the 1200 SMEs signed up to Gateway in its first 12 months, 67 per cent improved their business performance, and 80 per cent increased productivity and competitiveness.

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI):

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