Go global for growth

Four entrepreneurs discuss how exporting has helped their businesses to grow

Four entrepreneurs discuss how exporting has helped their businesses to grow

Four entrepreneurs discuss how exporting has helped their businesses to grow

Jon Boston, founder of men’s fashion company Denisonboston, says a focus on exporting has beaten off the recession

I started the business seven years ago and had been selling a bit overseas from the beginning, but I decided to develop a proper export strategy. Once we had a strong brand at home, I felt ready.

Thinking about our product range for new markets has actually improved our business in this country as it has forced us to come up with new ideas. Because the recession has affected countries differently, exporting has put us in a stronger position to deal with the global downturn and has meant we’ve dodged the bullet. My advice to any business would be to think seriously about exporting, but do a lot of research to find out what opportunities are out there. There’s no point in just thinking ‘Let’s conquer the world’. You need a considered strategy.

Martin Ruda, MD of payment systems company Tall Group, expanded overseas in response to a declining market at home

We were operating in a very competitive marketplace and some of the products we were offering, such as cheque services, were in decline at home. So we started looking at emerging markets and recruited a dedicated exports man to help us identify some of the opportunities available. The products we have concentrated on selling have been modifications of what has already been developed for the UK market as well as completely new products, such as producing ballot papers for West Africa. Exporting has made a substantial difference and we would not have been able to meet our growth targets without it. At the beginning of 2006 we were standing still, but by the end of 2008 we had brought in an additional £800,000.

Victoria Hesketh, who founded Accessories Online in 2004, has used social networking to improve her overseas sales

We don’t have a separate marketing strategy for other countries, but exports have been very important for our growth. The main tactic has been to get good rankings on Google. In a lot of countries we have managed to get a top spot.

We’ve worked very hard on search engine optimisation and we use Twitter a lot, which has been key for increasing exports. We’ve got about 10,000 clients, around 70 per cent of whom are international. When I send out a tweet about a new product, we usually see a spike in sales. I really think a lot of companies need to pick up on that.

Around 35 per cent of our sales are through selling online, which is 10 per cent up on what we were doing last year. But there’s definitely some more aggressive international marketing on the cards.

Alex Monroe, founder of the eponymous jewellery business, worked with UK Trade and Investment to get a foothold abroad

In order to help me enter the Japanese market, UK Trade and Investment let me showcase my products at a party held at the British Embassy. I managed to find a business partner at the event and subsequently began exporting to Japan.Exporting has been about 50 per cent responsible for our growth. If you don’t think of the whole world as your marketplace, you’re really limiting your horizons and in my view don’t have a hope in hell of seriously growing your business.

Nick Britton

Nick Britton

Nick was the Managing Editor for growthbusiness.co.uk when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...

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