How to use a trade advisor for your startup
Exporting is a brilliant opportunity to break into new markets and bring your products to a wider audience. It may seem daunting, but there is a lot of support out there to guide you through the process - including trade advisors. Trade advisors can advise and help you through the process of exporting, talking you through the best options and ensuring you've got the resources and information you need to make the right exporting decisions.
One Virgin StartUp-funded business who's found the services of a trade advisor useful is Sophia Ferguson of Little Fox Clothing and Tickle Tots, creating reusable, eco-friendly nappies. We asked her a few questions about her experience.
Where are you hoping to export and why?
Our aim is to export to the USA, as it's a big market for cloth nappies and a number of our competitors can be found there. We have also had various inquiries from across Europe so this would be our first step in exporting with the USA in the near future.
Why did you decide to work with a trade adviser rather than going it alone?
I was introduced to my trade advisor through Fay Easton at Startup Hub, my regional delivery partner, and it went from there!
What is the process of working with them like?
The process has been extremely straightforward and easy. The initial step is a face to face meeting where the trade adviser comes to you. In my case I currently work from home around the kids, so he came to the house. I think he must have thought I was a crazy lady as when he turned up the house was in turmoil! I had managed to get the house spotless ready for the meeting - however the kids chose that moment to create havoc! The baby was sick on me and the toddler hit her head! Luckily the meeting went well even with me looking slightly wild (through the chaos I hadn't had a chance to get myself ready!) Just another day in the life of mumpreneurs starting busy businesses from home!
Norman recommended a number of events, for example 'Export USA', which I attended. There I met a number of specialists, including the head of trade from LA, who offered some great advice and has put me in touch with various other contacts out there. He also recommended the 'Passport to Export' course. This course provides an introduction into exporting abroad. This day course costs £300 - however, you then have access to as many one-day masterclass training days as you like, and these focus in more detail on various aspects of exporting.
They will also work with you to form an action plan and find match funding and grants (up to £1000) to meet the actions set out in your plan. One of our key objectives is to travel to China to meet our manufacturers. The course was extremely helpful and also a fantastic networking opportunity and I would recommend it to anyone looking to export.
Can startups in any industry work with trade advisers?
From what I am aware of, any industry can work with a trade adviser.
How long do you anticipate working with them?
For at least the next couple of years, and then they are there at any point if further advice or support is required.
Is it free, and what other support have you looked into?
Yes, it is free. The only charge is if you choose to attend various courses, although some of these are also free. They will also put you in touch with other specialists as and when required. For example, someone who can offer website advice when trading internationally.
Any advice to other startups looking to export and/or thinking about using a trade advisor?
Exporting can seem very daunting and scary, but the trade advisers from the UKTI have a huge amount of knowledge and help to break the process down into stages which can be taken one step at a time, making the whole process much easier. I would highly recommend any startup looking to export to work with the UKTI. Their knowledge, advice and contacts will undoubtedly result in a great future in exporting!