On 8 May 2019 we hosted our 11th Export Action Plan competition final at GTR UK 2019 in London. As always, 10 SMEs pitched for the chance to win £3000 towards implementing their burgeoning export plans.
The cash prize was sponsored by NatWest, with the Institute of Export & International Trade giving each of the 10 shortlisted companies a year’s free membership to help them turn their plans into action. Each finalist gave a presentation on how they’d use the cash prize to implement their plans for international growth.
The judging panel consisted of:
- Jim Bidwell – Head of Trade Services Product Management – NatWest
- Lesley Batchelor OBE – Director General, Institute of Export & International Trade
- Graham Bright – Head – Compliance and Operations, Euro Exim Bank
- Margrith Lutschg – CEO & Founder, Octet Europe
- Chris Walker – Chair of the Federation of Small Business’ Department for International Trade Policy Unit
The finalists had been invited to the showcase having submitted their completed Export Action Plans using our online planning tool.
GTR UK – hosts for this year’s final
Companies from far and wide, ranging from pet’s foods producers to belt manufacturers, travelled to showcase their export plans at the final in London.
500 delegates from across the international trade spectrum gathered here, including fellow exporters, financiers and trade specialists. GTR UK also featured 50 thought leading speakers exploring the future of UK trade and exports, examining the trading opportunities within and beyond Europe and the implications of this new economic landscape for businesses.
Foil prints, belts and shoes
Following introductory remarks from Lesley Batchelor OBE, who set up the Export Action Plan tool in 2015 as CEO of Open to Export, the presentations commenced. Liam Smith from Auraprint was first up, speaking of his hopes to export high-quality foil prints to the USA. David Webster from Devanet followed, showing the impressive automated manufacturing of their belts, which they are looking to sell into the GCC region. Flora Harrison – a returning finalist – then bought some glamour to proceedings, with high quality shoes.
Vocational training, nuclear expertise, porcelain jewellery and high-quality pet foods
The finals always feature a quirky variety of SME exporters and the 11th iteration was no different. For instance, we went from vocational qualifications from Kiwi Education’s Aaaron Shaw, to nuclear expertise from Market Cross’ Mike Read, before Susie Dorman at One & Eight showed off her beautiful porcelain jewellery and giftware products. Each company impressed the judges with their plans to tap into the Asian, European and North American markets.
Ben Hutton from Pet’s Kitchen rounded off the second batch of presentations with his advanced nutrition pet foods and treats which he is looking to take to Japan, using the ‘Made in Britain’ brand to his advantage.
Salmon skin crisps, vegan skincare and Latin-infused rock music
As we got to the last batch of presentations, the judges knew they were in for a tough deliberation on who would be the winner. Dan Pawson from Sea Chips was another to impress the judges – especially as he provided the tastiest samples of the day in handcrafted salmon skin crisps. Less tasty but just as on-trend, Sinead Hughes from Stripped Skincare, whose double-award winning skincare brand is already making many headlines in magazines like Grazia, Stylist and OK, also impressed the judges with her clear plans for export success.
Finally, our second return finalist Zenith Nadir bought their eclectic mix of electronic rock with Latin rhythms to proceedings. Selina Marshall – their electronic violinist – sadly couldn’t make it to London, but was able to send in a video presentation, noting how the band would use the prize money to attend festivals where they could network and make new fans.
There can only be one winner…
The finalists that make it to the Export Action Plan finals are all winners in truth. Each is given a year’s free business membership with the Institute of Export & International Trade and the showcase final is always a great learning and networking experiences for all involved.
However, there could only be one winner of the main £3000 cash prize.
Following a thorough deliberation from the judges, NatWest’s Jim Bidwell announced One & Eight as the winners, in front of a packed closing plenary at the conference.
Speaking to us after the event, Susie Dorman, Owner and Creative Director of One & Eight, told us:
Completing the ‘Open to Export business plan’ has been invaluable to our company. It asked us all the right questions to ensure we thought about every aspect of export. We submitted this to enter the competition and were thrilled to be selected as a finalist.Preparing to pitch to a panel of judges really made me think about our company strengths, our strategy for exporting and how we would spend the winnings.It has been a challenging and invaluable experience.If your company is considering exporting, complete the business plan and you won’t look back!
We’d like to thank the sponsors NatWest and our hosts Global Trade Review for their hard work and commitment to making the competition happen again.
After the conference Peter Gubbins, Founder & CEO of GTR, told us:
At a time where we hear so much about the uncertainty faced by businesses, it’s never been more important for companies to get out there and export, to forge new trading relationships and to showcase the best the UK has the offer.
It is a great honour to host such a prestigious competition as part of GTR UK 2019 and we are sure that hearing these stories helps to inspire other companies to export in the future.
Speaking after the event, Lesley Batchelor, Director General for the Institute of Export & International Trade, said:
As ever it’s great to see innovative small businesses looking beyond the UK to markets all over the world. One & Eight are a great addition to our growing list of competition winners, and all 10 finalists should benefit from membership with the Institute. With us they’ll gain technical assistance through our helpline, a wealth of resources and valuable information, discounts on our training, a support network of fellow traders, and much more.
Taking a break for the summer
Our next competition final will be in the autumn and we will share more details about that shortly. This means you have all summer to get started with your own Export Action Plan.
So don’t delay, start your Export Action Plan today!