open to export final

Report from the 12th Export Action Plan Final

The Bshirt – the UK’s only ethical breastfeeding clothing brand dedicated to reducing clothing waste and empowering women to breastfeed with confidence – have won £3000 towards their international strategy following a showcase export planning final in Birmingham on 28th November.

They won the Open to Export Action Plan Competition with their pitch to expand sales into the Netherlands and Germany. They imprssed the judges with their focused plan to translate their website and marketing messaging for the Dutch and German markets, while also investing in social media campaigns to test each market.

The competition concluded with a showcase final at Bibby Financial Services’ (BFS) Birmingham offices. 8 SMEs pitched their international plans to a panel of expert judges for the chance to win the £3000 prize sponsored by BFS.

All the finalists entered the competition by submitting export plans generated using an online planning tool provided by the Institute of Export & International Trade on

Upon winning the competition, Lisa Lessware, Co-Founder of The Bshirt said:

“It was incredible. We’ve been working so hard for the last 3 years and it felt so good to get some recognition for how far we’ve come. To present to a panel of such accomplished business people was very daunting but it was such a great opportunity to showcase our amazing business and our export plans.

“We’re a small business with big dreams and we now have the support in place with prize money but also with the 1-year membership and training courses to gain the skills and expertise we need to make our exports a success. We’re very excited about what the next year will bring.”

the bshirt

Richard Bartlett, Director of Business Development at the Institute of Export & International Trade and a judge for the competition, also said:

“The Bshirt company were worthy winners amongst an impressive field of entrants. Their plans were coherent, and they had a clear pitch for how they’d use the £3000 towards their international growth. We look forward to watching their progress with great interest.”

The competition was sponsored by BFS as part of their commitment to increasing the number of small businesses in the UK selling into overseas markets.

Jim Davis, Managing Director for Export at BFS, said:

“We were blown away by all of the finalists’ pitches, but we were particularly excited by The Bshirt’s ambition to expand into new markets with such an innovative product. We look forward to seeing the business grow and make the most of the opportunities that international trade can bring.”

A list of the judges and finalists is below.

Export Action Plan Finalists

The judges

  • Kelly Hamill – Head of Sales, Bibby Financial Services [UK] Limited
  • Richard Bartlett – Director of Business Development, Institute of Export & International Trade
  • Keith Stokes-Smith – President, Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce
  • John Newton – Group Marketing Director, Clickthrough Marketing
  • Tony Allen – Founder and Head, Age Check Certification Scheme (and a previous Open to Export winner)

To find out more about the Open to Export competitions, please visit:

Sharing best practice to make the most of global markets

The showcase final took place as part of the Institute of Export & International Trade’s Birmingham World Trade Summit.

The Institute’s regional trade summit programme gathers exporters, importers and global trade professionals together to network and share best practices, ensuring the UK’s business community can make the most of the opportunities and challenges international markets present.

At the Birmingham summit there were a variety of presentations covering markets beyond the EU, including the Commonwealth, China and Russia.

About The Bshirt

The Bshirt is the UK’s only ethical breastfeeding clothing brand dedicated to reducing clothing waste and empowering women to breastfeed with confidence.

Started by two mums who wanted to wear normal clothes while breastfeeding, the Bshirt is deceptively simple – it’s a vest top that transforms a woman’s existing wardrobe to become breastfeeding friendly.

And it works – 83% of our customers say breastfeeding in their Bshirt makes them feel more confident than any other top.

Now trading in its 3rd year, the Bshirt is going from strength to strength. Its customers simply love the simplicity of the product and the ethics of the brand.

The Bshirt only uses organic cotton, fairtrade factories, and plastic-free packaging. The Bshirt is leading the way in ethical consumerism while helping mums achieve their goals.

Twitter: @thebshirt

About Bibby Financial Services

Bibby Financial Services (BFS) is a leading independent financial services partner to over 10,000 businesses worldwide.  With over 40 operations in 14 countries spanning Asia, Europe and North America, BFS provides specialist and adaptable FX services, trade, asset and working capital finance, helping businesses to grow in domestic and international markets. Formed in 1982, BFS is part of the Bibby Line Group (BLG), a diverse and forward-looking family business delivering personal, responsive and flexible customer solutions for over 200 years.

To find out more about Bibby Financial Services, visit:



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