open to export finalists

Report from the 10th Open to Export competition final

The 10th Open to Export Action Plan final took place at Grant Thornton’s London offices on 6th March 2019. As ever, 10 SME exporters were invited to pitch their business plans to a panel of expert judges for the chance to win a £3000 cash prize sponsored by Bibby Financial Services.

Each finalist entered the competition by completing an ‘Export Action Plan’ using our online planning tool. The finalists on show were a varied bunch, ranging from hemp-based paper products to natural luxury skincare to environmentally friendly fertilisers. The judges were wowed by the innovation and variety on show, each remarking that the future is bright for the UK’s exports.

The judging panel consisted of:

  • Lesley Batchelor, Director General – Institute of Export & International Trade
  • Jim Davis, Managing Director for Export Finance – Bibby Financial Services
  • Sarah Abrahams, Head of Growth Finance – Grant Thornton
  • Rosa Wilkinson, Communications Director – High Value Manufacturing Catapult
  • Rachael Attwood, Managing Director – Britannical (Previous Winner)

Judges 1

Making their case for the big prize

The finalists pitched the plans throughout the afternoon, each presenting for 10 minutes before 5 minutes of questions from the panel. Adam Connolly from Adjacency Group Ltd kicked off proceedings, presenting their premium luggage products made of carbon fibre. Built in England they are looking to form long-term relationships with retail buyers, agents and distributors in the USA.

Customs specialists at Afritec International Ltd showcased the Templar Vodka range that they’re looking to export to Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and then the USA. From Afritec, Donald Leyland-Naylor impressed everyone in the audience when he revealed that some of the vodkas in the range are thermochronic, meaning that they change colour when ice is added to them.

From drinks to artisan foods, Derek Stride from Gardener and Green returned for his second final with plans to export the best of British foods to China. Tony Allen from Age Check Certification Services Ltd also impressed the judges with his technological solutions to verifying and maintaining high standards in the emerging age-checking technologies industry.

adjacency group 4

Fertilisers, skincare and spectacle charms

The second return finalist of the day was David Marks from Levity Crop Science whose world-leading fertilizer products continue to generate interest from all over the world. Nektarios Tsinias from Living Pure Natural then pitched his 100% natural skincare products – which the judges enjoyed sampling!

Stephanie Collier from MyBlinx Ltd then showcased one of the quirkiest products yet at the competitions – a fun and colourful range of attachable charms for children’s spectacles. Though a relatively young business, Stephanie made the point that she has an immediately global audience – children!

myblinx 5

Sustainability and education

Candice Meskin from Quintessential Tips Limited kicked off the final bunch of presentations, pitching her hemp-based paper products. With 2.47 million trees cut everyday, she spoke of the need for a paradigm shift in how we consume paper, noting that hemp paper is far more sustainable than tree-based paper.

Perez Ochieng from Sacoma Global Foods Innovation is also looking to make a social impact by forming partnerships between African diaspora in the UK and emerging African markets. Perez was ahead of the times when starting to sell sweet potato products in 2008, and she is looking to continue exporting sweet potato-based powder products to Spain and India.

Last but never least, Lorraine Turner from YoYo Let’s Go Ltd presented her augmented reality educational apps for young families visiting major cities.

sacoma global foods innovation 2

A big decision to make

In one of the most competitive competition finals, the judges were hard-pressed to name the 10th winner of the competition. However, after a long deliberation, Lesley Batchelor OBE (Director General of the IOE&IT) named Age Check Certification Services Ltd as the winners.

Upon winning the competition, Tony Allen, CEO of Age Check Certification Services Ltd, said:

“We are delighted to have won the competition; the Export Action Plan is a really useful tool that has allowed us to clearly identify the steps in our exporting journey. As a provider of third-party certification of age check equipment and practices in the UK, our next step is to expand our footprint overseas. We are breaking new ground in this really important field where we were able to come up with a really inventive strategy and we’re proud that our plan was recognised as the best by the judges.”

Jim Davis, Managing Director of Export Finance at competition sponsors Bibby Financial Services, said:

“The quality of the plans and the presentations was really high and all the finalists should be very proud of their achievements in getting to this stage. Age Check for me not only presented really well but had thought that little bit more about their export market and how they could be successful selling their services overseas. The product in my opinion is brilliant and provides knowledge to retailers to be better at protecting young people from being able to buy products where age restrictions apply especially via e-commerce which must be harder to police. I wish all the businesses the best of luck and I’m sure they will all be successful.”

Lesley Batchelor OBE added:

“Congratulations to Age Check Certification Services Ltd on becoming our 10th Open to Export competition winners. It was a close-run event with all the finalists impressing the judges with their considered and innovative export strategies. Age Check just pipped the others with their explanation of how they would use the £3000 prize money. We look forward to working with them on the implementation of their plans. With SMEs like these, we predict a bright export future for the UK!”

age check certification win

The 11th competition…

The 11th Open to Export competition is open for SMEs to enter. Companies have till April 12th to do so, with a showcase final due to be taking place at the ‘GTR UK 2019’ conference on May 8th.

Enter the competition >>

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