Online exporter service – – becomes a community owned social enterprise

7 February 2014

Following a successful first year, Open to Export, the free, online exporter community, has become a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC). It has the support of the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Export, and marketing solutions and websites provider, hibu as its founding members. Part of the Government’s SME export strategy, Open to Export continues to work in close collaboration with Department for International Trade. The new company is led by Tech entrepreneur, Julian Hucker who is chairman of the new Board.

The Open to Export CIC will lead the development and growth of a truly community focused digital service.  The original site was developed by hibu (UK) Limited, in a partnership with Department for International Trade.  Since launching in late 2012, the site has grown and averaged 25,000 unique monthly visitors in 2013 with over 225 contributing partners getting involved.

The change in ownership has no immediate impact on the site. The site will remain free for users, and companies using the site can expect to see improvements with new features and functionality throughout 2014 and beyond. The site will continue to welcome contributions of content and advice from any organisation with value to offer exporters.

Lord Livingston, Minister for Trade and Investment said:
“Help for companies wanting to export is of vital importance to our economy. I look forward to Open to Export helping more and more companies.”

Mike Cherry, National Policy Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said:  “Exporting has never been more important for the UK economy.  There are many small companies in the UK that with access to the right support through the likes of Open to Export, could go on and successfully trade internationally.   The FSB is proud to support Open to Export and play a part in its future success.”

Notes to Editors
1. is a free, online community for UK companies looking to grow through export. It brings together experts from across the private sector and government to help SMEs successfully enter international markets. Users can gain practical insights on key topics from articles, videos and webinars and get bespoke advice from experts in the forum. Since launch, thousands of small businesses have benefited from the community service in the last year – with positive feedback from those involved in export themed events, webinars, features and competitions.

2. The Open to Export CIC has the support of the Federation of Small Businesses, marketing solutions and websites provider hibu, and the Institute of Export as its founding members.  The not-for-profit company’s mission is to support small & medium sized businesses grow through export.  Open to Export is governed by a Board made up of Mike Cherry, National Policy Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, Lesley Batchelor, Director General of the Institute of Export and Richard Hanscott, Chief Executive Officer  of hibu UK.  The CIC is headed, by an independent non-Executive Chair, Julian Hucker, co-founder of Esendex, a successful SMS service that was recently acquired for £11m.

3. Supporting quotes from the Open to Export Board Members:

Julian Hucker, Chairman of Open to Export said:
“I am delighted to be leading Open to Export in its next phase of growth.  Having been on the original advisory group that developed the concept, I am particularly excited about running this project.  I’m looking forward to the site helping thousands more companies trade overseas.”

Lesley Batchelor, Director General of the Institute of Export said:
“Any small company looking to trade internationally needs, support, guidance and training.  Open to Export plays an important role in helping companies access such support. I’m looking forward to playing an active role in its forthcoming success.”

Richard Hanscott, Chief Executive Officer of hibu UK, said:
“We have worked hard to help the service grow from an initial idea to what it is now – a successful community, helping local businesses go global. hibu has helped SMEs grow for more than 45 years and I look forward to our continued involvement in Open to Export.”

4. About the organisations:
The Federation of Small Business is the UK’s leading business organisation with around 200,000 members. It exists to protect and promote the interests of the UK’s Real-Life Entrepreneurs who run their own business. More information is available at

hibu helps communities thrive by facilitating millions of connections each year between consumers who want to find products and services locally and the merchants who provide them. hibu helps merchants compete in the digital world with a broad range of marketing and commerce solutions offered online and through hibu’s direct sales teams. Building on its heritage as a premier directories provider, hibu continues to offer a full range of print- and distribution-based marketing services.

hibu operates in the UK, US, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru and US Hispanic markets. In the twelve months to 31 March 2013, hibu had one million SME customers and total revenues of £1.3 billion. For further information about hibu, visit

Established in 1935, the Institute of Export is the professional membership body representing and supporting the interests of everyone involved in importing, exporting and international trade.  Offering a unique range of individual and business membership benefits and a world renowned suite of qualifications and training, the Institute is the leading authority in best practice and competence for businesses trading globally.

Department for International Trade (UKTI) is the government department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. We also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s economy – acknowledged as Europe’s best place from which to succeed in global business. DIT offers expertise and contacts through its extensive network of specialists in the UK, and in British embassies and other diplomatic offices around the world. We provide companies with the tools they require to be competitive on the world stage. For more information on DIT, visit or visit the online newsroom at

Export Action Plan