On Wednesday 22 March, Open to Export hosted its first regional Export Action Plan competition final at the Moller Centre, Cambridge. Eight varied and innovative companies from the East of England region attended in what was the second of three showcase finals taking place across the end of March alongside two sector-specific finals for food and drink and tech and creative.
Sponsored by SDL Managed Translation, Heathrow Airport Limited, Yell and the Institute of Export and International Trade, and supported by DIT with the showcase final taking place as part of DIT East of England’s ‘Export Bootcamp’ day of training and networking, the finalists were invited to the final after submitting their Export Action Plans using Open to Export’s online planning tool.
The tool helps UK SMEs to create a structured plan for international expansion, covering all the steps of exporting from getting started to delivery and documentation.
The variety on show was quite extraordinary, with the finalists ranging from beetroot ketchup producers to Radiology Information Systems software designers.
With the unenviable first slot, Bactest Ltd opened the floor presenting their microbiological equipment based around a patented Cytomaia platform. With plans to enter the Asian market, their action plan had been a useful exercise for planning and organising their export strategy. As an example of the day’s broad range of finalists, Bactest were then followed by Genevieve Sweeney’s premium British knitwear label based in Clavering, Essex, which fuses contemporary design with heritage knitting techniques to reinvigorate and support the UK knitting industry.
Unsurprisingly, given that the event was hosted in Cambridge, there was a healthy dosage of life sciences companies on show. RadBee Ltd presented their compliance related services for the life sciences market, while Rensacience Pharm Ltd impressed the judges with their innovative approach to the development of medicines and healthcare solutions.
Haziq Patel (R&D Operations Lead at Renasience) summed up the experience of presenting at the showcase final when describing it as being ‘like an elevator pitch’ where you need to tell the judges what they ‘don’t already know’ so you can instead talk more about the product itself because they have already read about the business in the submitted action plan.
The second half of the day followed the lead of the first with companies coming from food and drink, medtech and personal fitness clothing. Sacoma Global Foods excel in promoting exports to east Africa and have had particular success with selling sweet potatoes into Kenya, while Soliton IT don’t currently export, but they do design, build, develop and manufacture Radiology Information System (RIS) software – they have used the plan to help accelerate their plans to start exporting this year.
In the final stages, Sundried presented their ‘premium ethical activewear’ which they already sell on Amazon and elsewhere online but are now looking to crack the massive Chinese market, while The Foraging Fox ended the day on a intriguingly salivating note with their beetroot ketchups which are already being sold in 8 countries – most recently the US.
But following a period of intense discussion for the judges there could only be one winner and that winner was Genevieve Sweeney and her premium British knitwear label. Genevieve was of course delighted with the outcome:
I am so thrilled to have won the competition and incredibly grateful to Open to Export, DIT east of England, for such a wonderful opportunity. I am so excited to start my exporting plan and to enter a new market with a strong international website and marketing strategy.
It’s certainly been a rapid rise for the Essex based company.
I launched the label 18 months ago and set it up predominantly online, then within 6 months I gained renowned stockists in the UK like Fortnum & Mason and gained great global press with publications such as Vogue Brazil, Elle Canada and the Sunday Times and Telegraph, which helped to spread the story of brand and increase brand awareness. From amazing press I gained sales from the US and now it is really become a strong market for me. It’s been going really well for the first 18 months and now the next step is to enter the USA market and really plan for a strong campaign.
The prizes she won included £3000 cash, a new website build and consultancy from Yell, two training courses from the Institute of Export, and a year’s membership at the Food and Drink Exporters Association. They also won, along with the other finalists, a £300 website translation voucher from SDL Managed Translation and a year’s small business membership at the Institute of Export.
Open to Export CEO, Lesley Batchelor OBE, said that, “East of England didn’t disappoint with a brilliant array of businesses and ideas as well as excellent plans for taking them to new markets.”
Lesley was joined on the judging panel by Bojan Ambrus, Head of Customer Acquisition at SDL Managed Translation, Roger Glasel, International Trade Manager, TSUK, Commercial & Private Banking at NatWest, Alan Pain, Regional Director for the East of England region at the Department for International Trade, and Sussanah Poulton, International Trade Adviser at the Department for International Trade.