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We held our July Masterclass in Sheffield on 12th July at The Source and 3 of South Yorkshire’s business people formed our panel. They were Hugh Facey founder and Chairman of Gripple and Loadhog, both started by Hugh and with combined sales of approx £100m, Julie Kenny founder and ex ceo of Pyronix and Sir Anthony Ullmann joint founder and ex ceo of Autofil Worldwide.

There was a bit of competition between the panel. Gripple sold about 85% of their products overseas but Autofill sold 95% overseas! This was because their yarn went into motor vehicle seats and upholstery which was made into cloth in Europe, the Far East and the US before forming part of a seat which was made alongside the vehicle production line.

Finding your Overseas Market

This is usually fairly obvious to a business, where are you selling already, where is the competition weak, where are your business friends/contacts, can you add your product or service to somebody already in the market with their products thereby expanding the range of products they offer. This saves you finding customers from scratch.

If none of this works then possibly Australia or South Africa or Europe. The panel agreed the US is very very difficult, Julie tried twice and failed.

You must go to the country. Going to overseas exhibitions in your field is usually helpful as you will meet possible distributors/agents and collect lots of business cards.

Structure for Overseas

All the panel set up companies in the territories and employed locals. The trouble with agents and distributors is knowing when they are working for you, and distributors have other products to sell as well as yours.

If possible speak their language, or employee somebody who does speak their language usually to do a sales and/or customer service role.

Intellectual Property/regulations etc

Gripple had patents in any country where they had competitors, which is about 50. The panel registered trademarks widely as it is relatively cheap compared to patents.

Is it easy for your product/service to comply with local regulations or does it do so already for example because of EU regs.

UKTI/Our Embassies

Paid or partly paid for overseas trips run by UKTI are worth going on. Local embassies can be commissioned to find leads.