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EXPORTING: find the path to overseas selling

Creative industries in the UK are thriving, and the opportunities do not stop within our shores. We asked Exporting is Great, the government’s campaign to promote exports from UK businesses, to tell us about a UK jewellery business benefiting from having taken the leap.

Jewellery designer Katie Mullally, whose business is flourishing, is proof of the demand internationally for the work of talented UK artisans. With the help of UK Trade & Investment, Mullally has recently cracked the overseas market and the future looks bright for her highly coveted designs, which are already showcased internationally by her showbiz fans including Ellie Goulding, Nicole Scherzinger and Fearne Cotton.

Having worked in her grandmother’s antiques shops, Mullally developed a love for silver and went on a silversmith course. She set up her own business just four years ago, creating a range of bespoke gold plated and silver designs, including her signature wishbone range. She first started exporting to Japan 18 months ago, just two-and-a-half years after she founded her business. Her success is proof of just how quickly looking overseas for new business opportunities can bear fruit. After this first success, she has already secured a second overseas stockist in China and hopes to enter two new markets over the next 12 months.

But it’s not just this story which is evidence of the opportunity overseas. Barclays research, Export to Expand: the key to small business growth in the UK, suggests that companies that export grow by a third within two years, equating to £400,000 in additional sales revenue on average, per company. This shows exporting should be a top priority for all UK businesses looking to grow.

The website exportingisgreat.gov.uk is the perfect place to start. A collaboration between government and industry, it is a gateway to real time opportunities around the world (searchable by sector), expert advice, guidance and support on exporting. Right now, there are over 2,000 real-time business opportunities on the site, sourced by the government’s international network and partners and worth hundreds of millions of pounds to UK businesses.

Businesses looking to dip their toe into the pool can register their interest instantly online for global export opportunities. You can also access free expert advice, trade services, training and events. Some 85% of companies who have worked with UKTI say exporting has led to a level of growth otherwise not possible and it should be a natural next step for businesses going for growth.

Creative services made up 7% of all UK service exports in 2011, worth an impressive £15.5 billion. However the joint industry and government Creative Industries Council wants to double this figure to £31 billion by 2020. According toMullally, the possibilities for UK businesses overseas are within grasping reach, if you have the tenacity to get started.

“Breaking into a foreign market does not happen overnight,” she says. “However the personal and business rewards of doing so are hugely satisfying. UKTI played a pivotal role in my exporting journey. I had already made contact with the Japanese market but UKTI’s courses, events and introductions gave me the knowledge and connections to really achieve market penetration.”

For Mullally, finding the right market for her silver pendants and chains was a crucial first step. “You need to have a solid understanding of your products’ unique selling points”, she explains. “For example, quality is highly valued among Japanese consumers, and I pride myself on creating jewellery that combines delicate heritage design, with substantial silver weighting – something that is proving attractive to buyers.” Her products are all individually hallmarked by the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office with her own mark, KMM, and the date, assuring not only the purity and weight of the precious metal, but also attesting to the object’s own unique history.

A key turning point in Mullally’s outreach to Japan came when UKTI invited her to take part in a Japanese trade mission. Here, she was able to showcase her designs to top Japanese retailers and tap into a network of similarly innovative UK brands. “It was an amazing experience,” she says. “I had representatives from the Japanese equivalent of major department stores like Selfridges and House of Fraser surveying my products, and I was able to talk them through my designs and gain a better understanding of what was most appealing and desirable.” She subsequently went on to receive her first order, and her export journey began.        

This story is a strong illustration of the importance of both showing initiative and taking advantage of the wealth of advice and support on exportingisgreat.gov.uk, which can be accessed by all UK businesses. Indeed, Mullally advises any company wishing to export to access government services to tap into the support available.

Top tips on beginning to export include:

  • Do your research. Visit exportingisgreat.gov.uk to get a feel for the live opportunities available, download an export guide, find exporting events near you and access information on starting your export journey.
  • Seek help from the experts. Use the links available on exportingisgreat.gov.uk to contact your local export expert. All advisors have extensive experience and sector expertise. Your export expert can assess the strengths and international demand for your product and help you take your first steps to exporting.
  • Explore the financial implications. The Exporting is GREAT website contains a whole page on financing and insurance. Make an appointment with an Export Finance Adviser and discuss the financial implications with your bank.
  • Immerse yourself in the culture. Once you have identified a target market and mapped out the financial practicalities, research the country’s social and business etiquettes, market structure and legal set up. Consider practical issues like the currency, exchange rates and time zone differences and evaluate the competition.
  • Start networking. Visit www.exportingisgreat.gov.uk to access a whole host of export focused events, twitter talks and webinars. Speak to as many other businesses and advisers as possible and once you do start to outreach to your chosen market, you will need to make regular trips and network hard to lay the foundations of your exporting journey.   
  • Be patient. Your first overseas sale won’t happen overnight, so be patient and be prepared for local customs and legislation to potentially slow things down.
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Exporting does require work but, like any exciting business venture, the rewards can be incredibly empowering and really boost your market value. If, like Katie Mullally, you aspire to take your creative vision to the wider world, reach out via Exporting is GREAT and make 2016 a standout year in the story of your business.  

About Exporting is GREAT

Michael Northcott
Michael is the editor of Jewellery Focus magazine. He draws from experience at a wide range of B2B magazines, including Management Today, Legal Business, Retail Week and Hotel Owner. Feel free to drop him a line with any stories or feature ideas.

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