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Export tips from successful businesses

How to make international trade work for you

Three SMEs explain why they looked at international markets, the challenges they faced and how we helped them expand overseas.

Expanding your business overseas can be a challenge, but one that could also offer big rewards. If you’re considering taking this step, or want to develop your export business further, here are some practical tips from businesses that have found success in international markets. 

Superfood Market – an exporting success story

After forming in 2012, e-commerce site Superfood Market now sells health-food products in more than 40 countries.

Dream big

Gemma Price founded Superfood Market out of a cupboard in her Ealing kitchen in 2012 after spotting a gap in the online market for ethical, healthy food products. Now based in Bradford, the company serves more than 40 countries around the world, from four warehouses across Europe and the UK. 

Gemma's passion for her products inspired her to sell them overseas. “I wanted to sell artisan domestic products abroad, where they were previously unavailable,” she says. Once word spread, expansion was easy – she started to receive emails from potential customers in new countries asking if she’d ship to them.

“Barclays really understands international e-commerce,” says Gemma, “often making great suggestions about how I can improve in certain areas."

She makes use of our apps – regularly checking her balance on Barclays Mobile Banking1 and using the FX powered by Barclays app to keep abreast of fluctuations in exchange rates, which can have a huge impact on Superfood Market's business. If Gemma doesn't stay on top of them, the company could make losses in certain countries unless its pricing is adapted accordingly in real time.

“The foreign-exchange app allows me to proactively manage our FX exposure," she says. “It's like having another member of our finance team constantly monitoring currency movements, letting us know when it's time to take action to update quotes and sale prices or where we can afford to be a little more competitive on our export sales.”

“I have a widget that I can use to just add the new rate in and it instantly changes all our prices across every marketplace we operate in.”

Gemma’s top tips: “Be persistent and dedicated – your international order book won’t come overnight. Keep developing it and over time it will start to become an essential part of your core business.

Dream big and don't be afraid to chase orders from further afield. Of course the EU and English-speaking markets are easy wins, but Japan and Russia are currently our best performing markets.

Get help from experts. Speak to your bank, Chamber of Commerce and the Department of International Trade. Find out everything they can do to support your business. Download their apps and play on their websites – you’d be surprised just how many tools, guides and flow charts are already out there.”

Don’t be afraid of change

Tanya Houston started Wildwood PR in 1994, on her own, from her back bedroom. Now, she runs PR campaigns for clients across nine different countries.

Tanya explains how it was her existing relationship with Barclays that led to her move: “A few years ago, our Barclays Business Manager identified how our business was growing and suggested this could be an opportunity to expand further,” she says. “They helped us take our first steps internationally.”

“There were some legal aspects of exporting we needed help with, and at first, even being paid in a different currency seemed complicated for us,” says Tanya. “In 2010, Barclays introduced me to UK Trade & Investment (now the Department for International Trade – DIT), during one of their local seminars on export. Together, they helped us take our business to the next level.”

“Of our client base, 30-40% is now based overseas, and with Barclays’ and Department for International Trade's help, we’ve been growing in new business for the past few years,” says Tanya. “Our international experience means we can confidently encourage our clients to be ambitious and think internationally.”

Tanya’s top tips: “Start by looking at the people and businesses you work with. Leverage and invest in them and see what they have to offer you.

Don’t be afraid of change – welcome it. The world, technology and businesses are changing every day. Be flexible and adapt. Above all, listen to what the market wants and work on delivering that, setting achievable goals.

Manage your time and resources – with help from outside sources such as your bank if necessary – and focus on what’s going to make a real difference.”

Speak to your bank

David Robinson started World of Rides in his garage in County Durham in 1969 and has been manufacturing and selling his amusements, rides and games ever since. Today, he exports go-karts, bumper cars, bumper boats and pedal-car rides to holiday parks and resorts in countries including Sweden, Italy and Spain.

“We’ve always worked very closely with our Barclays Relationship Managers who, in turn, have introduced us to their International Managers, who have always been fantastic,” says David. “They saw the potential and offered assistance before we even asked.”

“We had to find trustworthy long-term partners in each country to act on our behalf, but in their own language and using their own business methods,” says David. “We had to make sure that the bank payments between countries could be done safely.”

David also had to find reliable logistics companies to transport the goods safely and on time. “These things can be a hard learning curve for any fledgling business” he says. “Having a UK bank with such a fully experienced International department makes a massive difference.” He adds: “Understanding letters of credit, performance bonds, dealing with foreign banks and multi-currency accounts – Barclays helped clarify exactly what we needed and delivered everything seamlessly.”

David’s top tips: “Speak to your bank. Make sure they fully understand the different costs, currency fluctuations and timescales involved. Don’t assume that overseas customers will be as alert to any problems that may arise as they should be.

Always try to learn the basic language of each country as a mark of respect and to help ease any future misunderstandings. It’s also a good idea to attend as many international trade exhibitions as possible, to talk to as many overseas buyers and suppliers as possible.”

We can help you expand internationally – to find out how request a call back from our specialist International Team.

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