Export Action Plan Competition Final – June 30th 2016

On Thursday 30th June 2016, Open to Export hosted the second Export Action Plan Competition final in Liverpool on the centrepiece Blue Skies Stage at the International Festival for Business. Like the inaugural event in January it was an inspiring day for UK business with 10 exciting new exporters outlining their plans for international growth.

Klik2Learn, winners of the Open to Export Action Plan Competition in July 2016.

Klik2Learn Ltd were named as the second winners of the £3000 cash prize after impressing the expert judges with their innovative digital solution to learning new languages. Soon to be available on App Store, their app uses shapes and voice recognition to help people learn how to use stress, intonation and timing correctly in English. Ann Attridge, director of Klik2Learn, spoke of how the prize money will go towards helping the company to grow in France and India, as well as helping them attend international trade shows.

Speaking at the event, Ann said: “I’m bowled over – especially as it was a last minute decision to enter the competition. This accolade will undoubtedly enhance our reputation and the funding will be instrumental in furthering our international trade goals in countries including India, France and the Balkans.”

The 10 finalists were chosen by our panel of judges having submitted their Export Action Plans using Open to Export’s online planning tool. The tool helps small businesses to create a structured plan for selling overseas, helping them to ensure they’ve covered all the important details and processes that exporting entails.

Ann said of the tool: “The Export Action Plan has been invaluable for challenging us and keeping us focused as we map out the next stage of our journey.”

Export Action Plan finalists
The finalists of this year’s Export Action Plan Competition.

The 10 shortlisted companies were invited to present their submitted Action Plans to the judges, pitching how they would use the cash prize to take the next step towards becoming successful exporters. All the finalists showed they had a detailed and coherent understanding of how to overcome the challenges exporting presented them.

A & R House Ltd, who produce raw materials from the extracts of used plants, began the proceedings speaking of their need to set up an international website to help them deal with their growing international interest. They were followed by Business Development Midlands Ltd who are looking to grow their professional development training in Vietnam. They spoke of the importance of ‘face-to-face interaction’ in building successful international working relationships.

Following in the tradition of previous Open to Export finalists from the gifts and clothes worlds, Cherith Harrison Ltd presented their unique brand of British animal-inspired tote bags, oven gloves, tea towels and so on. Looking to follow the lead of UK brands like Uniqlo and Cath Kidson in breaking into the Japan market, Cherith spoke of the importance of doing effective market research ahead of launching in any new market.

The winners Klik2Learn were next to pitch and they were followed by Ops&Ops, who the judges strongly suggested were the closest runners up for the main prize. Ops&Ops certainly bought some glamour to the event with their 60s styled shoes and the Shoreditch-based company are sure to continue making waves in New York and soon the West Coast, where they are hoping to showcase next year.

Pop-ettes then bought some family fun to the final with their origami animal characters. Already exporting a WWF-endorsed activities book in Ireland, as well as ebooks in France and Holland, the Sussex-based company look well set to spread their amusing finger puppets and head masks across Europe and beyond.

Pop-ettes were followed by Medical Stock Images who have created an online marketplace similar to Getty Images and Shutterstock but with professionally created images for the health and medical publications industries. Like many online exporters they spoke of the importance of getting their international approach to SEO right to ensure their website attracts customers in international online markets.

Pop-ettes bring a bit of family fun to proceedings.

After lunch Prickly Thistle, a bespoke tartan design and production company, talked about how they were trying to maximise the international appeal of Scottish tartan, especially in the luxury markets. They would have used the funds towards researching specialist luxury niches such as the potential for designing specialised tartan fabrics for private jets and other forms of luxury transport.

West Berkshire Brewery’s selection of cast and craft ales were perhaps less glamorous but certainly no less enticing, and following the recent expansion of their brewing facilities they look well set to spread a wave of delectable intoxication across Ireland and then the USA. As with much of the craft ale industry, getting the right brand and marketing could be key to their growth.

And last but not least were PREA Ltd., a leading global consultancy specialising in the polymer chemicals and manufacturing industry. As one of the few companies in the industry to combine technical consultancy with recruitment & management consultancy (mergers & acquisitions, buying and selling companies, joint ventures, restructuring) they have scope for growth globally.

Like the inaugural competition in January, all the finalists were able to network and learn from each other, swapping ideas on the similar challenges that exporting presents each of them, despite the broad range of industries they represented. All the finalists told us of the importance and usefulness of the Export Action Plan tool for helping them create a structured and detailed plan for the next steps in their international growth.

Lesley Batchelor OBE – judge, compere and CEO of Open to Export – said:

“Feedback from all the finalists demonstrated that the Export Action Plan is an excellent and easy-to-use resource which helps businesses to maximise the vibrant opportunities in international trade.”

“Well done to all the worthy companies who were shortlisted – their commitment, passion and entrepreneurial spirit made it challenging for the judges to select an overall winner and we wish them all continued success in their international trade ambitions.”

Lesley was joined on the panel by James Cliffe, head of business banking at HSBC, Ian Ballentine, director of procurement at Heathrow, Mark Lesniak at Great British Store and Mark Pountain, MD of previous Export Action Plan competition winner Charles Farris Candles.

The competition was sponsored by the International Festival for Business 2016 and Bibby Financial Services – both dedicated to helping more new and inexperienced exporters to thrive internationally.

Each of the 10 finalists has won a year’s free small business membership of the Institute of Export and a year’s free membership with the Great British Store.

The competition will be resuming soon as part of Open to Export’s ongoing efforts to help British SMEs take the next steps towards exporting. You can complete your Export Action Plan and take your next steps towards selling overseas at any time. Start today by going to – https://opentoexport.com/info/export-action-plan/

Open to Export competition judges
The judges (left to right): James Cliffe (HSBC), Ian Ballentine (Heathrow), Mark Pountain (Charles Farris), Mark Lesniak (Great British Store), Lesley Batchelor (Open to Export)
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