A FRESH group of 30 small businesses were recently unveiled as “export champions” by the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council.
The appointments will offer them access to high-level networking events and introductions, training, mentoring and tailored trade missions, with trips to Canada and Australia planned.
At a recent event to promote the council’s SME-focused Commonwealth First programme, experienced exporters offered Tribune readers their advice.
Do your research
Jayne Moorby is marketing manager for Cumbrian defence lighting supplier Oxley Group, which was among the first cohort of Commonwealth First Export Champions.
She says: “Work with networks here and get advice before you start. You need to understand the foibles of the market because each one is different. Speak to the DIT, UK Export Finance and Commonwealth First. They are all associations there to give you support. But also there are specific organisations like the India Business Council.”
Use the embassies
Department for International Trade Midlands Export Ambassador Deborah Leary, of tech firm Forensic Pathways, says: “When we were looking to go to Brazil, the first thing I did was contact the DIT teams in-country, tell them what we were thinking about doing and getting their support. We used the embassy for an event to launch awareness of us. That would have cost a lot of money if we had to do it on our own and probably no-one would have turned up because we wouldn’t have had the contacts.”
Use your diaspora
Birmingham Airport ambassador Uday Dholakia, who chairs the National Asian Business Association, says diaspora connections can open up new markets, citing his base of Leicester as a great example. “You’ve got local people who can give you the inside track on a country, get you access to money for investment and help you deal with any difficulties that arise.” Where they existed, honorary consuls – like Jaffer Kapasi who represents the Midlands to Uganda – could connect SMEs to foreign government in just “two phone calls”, he added.