To mark the start of Export Week, Lisa Tse, co-founder of Sweet Mandarin, the Chinese barbecue sauce business, has featured in a unique guide for first-time exporters regarding their experience with a UKTI trade mission.
‘From Local to Global’, fronted by Dragons’ Den investor and Government Export Ambassador Kelly Hoppen, includes examples of women-led companies that have successfully cracked international markets such as luxury chocolate maker, Amelia Rope, children seat belt makers, Belt Up Kidz and Chinese sauce manufacturer, Sweet Mandarin.
Lisa Tse has featured as part of Sweet Mandarin’s experience in joining a UKTI trade mission. From Local to Global forms part of the Business is GREAT Britain campaign, led by UK Trade & Investment and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Lisa and her sister Helen were running an award-winning Chinese restaurant, Sweet Mandarin, in Manchester when a customer asked if he could bottle some of their barbecue sauce. This request grew into a business, which employs four full-time staff and produces approximately 20,000 bottles of sauce per week.
Sweet Mandarin applied to join a delegation to SIAL in Paris, a major international food show. The business received funding towards the cost of the trip and appeared on the UKTI stand, resulting in an order from Russia. They joined a group of 100 British businesses accompanying the Prime Minister to China in December 2013. As a direct result of this the business secured a £6m, five-year export deal to China.
Lisa Tse, who co-founded the business with her sister Helen, says: “The Prime Minister said he could help us to promote our sauces to China and he kept his word, I could tell that being on such a visit really impressed our distributors and it showed us to be a credible, powerful British brand, serious about doing business in China.
“Exporting is crucial for a business to survive but it has its pitfalls. Thankfully, UKTI is on hand to answer questions, make introductions and create opportunities for us to promote ourselves globally.”
Kelly Hoppen says: “There are many great examples of women-led companies taking their skills and expertise to the world. Through the guide we aim to take the fear out of exporting and show that exploring new markets is not only financially rewarding but exciting.”
The guide is available now to view online.
Export Week is organised by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to seek customers overseas with over 90 events across the UK and over 6,000 businesses expected to attend. There will also be over 130 export specialists from more than 70 countries.
This year there will be an emphasis on women-led businesses with women-focused events being held from Southport to Somerset and Burnley to Birmingham.
The most recent Small Business Survey in 2012 from BIS shows that 13% of women-led small and medium-sized businesses in the UK export compared with the national average of 19%. This gap represents an opportunity, and projections suggest that the UK could have up to an extra 10,000 exporters if these businesses grew and exported at the same rate as the average.
Trade Minister Lord Livingston says: “The number of women setting up businesses has doubled compared to a few years ago, but at the moment companies set up by women are consistently less likely to export. We have hugely increased the number of companies receiving Government export support but currently only one in ten of these firms are women-led.
“UK businesses can be great exporters, and Export Week is an excellent opportunity for us to do more to promote women-led firms.
“By offering dedicated events, support and our introductory guide, we will make UKTI’s services more engaging and accessible to female businesses and help create new exporters who can take Britain’s GREAT products and services to the world.”
On Sunday, UKTI announced that it had doubled its number of medium-sized business helped from 1,000 to 2,000 after Lord Livingston wrote to every medium-sized business in the country offering tailored trade advice and an intensive programme of UKTI support.
Export Week is running from 10 – 14 November. It is the sixth time UKTI has organised the week-long event to showcase the growth opportunities international markets can offer and the specific services UKTI can provide to help firms take advantage.