Why startups should think internationally

When it comes to making your business go global, it's a game of give and take. The UK is one of the best places to do business internationally precisely because it's not all about looking outward, but also about welcoming a diverse range of global entrepreneurs. There are opportunities for businesses of all sizes to export, and other countries want to do business with us too. This flow of ideas both ways makes for a perfect breeding ground for innovation and creativity.

One person celebrating this is Rafael dos Santos, a Brazilian-born entrepreneur passionate about opportunities for migrant entrepreneurs in the UK, and the benefits that thinking internationally has for UK businesses too. With shedloads of global business experience under his belt, Rafael's social enterprise mi-hub helps international entrepreneurs in the UK find opportunities and training. Rafael was recently named as one of the 'Maserati 100', a list of the most inspiring up-and-coming entrepreneurs in Britain. We ask Rafael about the export opportunities for UK businesses, why people want to do business in the UK, and why it's important to welcome migrant entrepreneurs.

What do you think it is that makes the UK such an attractive prospect for international businesses?

The UK has very simple rules for businesses and it's a very welcoming country with friendly people. This friendly atmosphere attracts entrepreneurs from all over the world. Also the economy is very stable which helps planning for the future. As well as this, the UK has several tax incentives so investors can invest in small businesses, which leads to job opportunities, especially for young people starting their careers.

​I've been in London for 14 years - it's the best UK hub for businesses. I know other larger cities like Manchester and Liverpool are good, but London has more small businesses than any other UK city.

London is good for for local, national and international businesses. It sits between America and Asia - which is good for timezones. And there are so many free workshops, training and events you can attend, all of which lead to new opportunities.


What sort of UK products are currently popular with international businesses – what do they want to see from the UK?

​In Brazil the most popular product is the cupcake! It's a huge market and everyone loves them. It's 'posh' to have British cup cakes at birthday parties and weddings.

I was in China last October for the World Entrepreneurship Forum and luxury British brands are the must-have items. They also love the Royal Family and some Chinese girls had branded items with photos of Prince William.

The UK is well known for its intellectual services: marketing, advertising and clever comedy.


When and why did you set up the Migrant Business Show?

I started planning the Migrant Business Show back in December and the show will happen on 6th April 2016 at the Westminster Central Hall from 6-10pm. I am running the show in partnership with the London Entrepreneur Network with over 15000 member-entrepreneurs.

The show has been created to help migrant entrepreneurs to be face to face with prospective clients, find new suppliers and create partnerships so they can grow their businesses. Also we want to change the public perception of migrants in the UK - we want to show that migrants are contributing to the economy and generating jobs too. We're creating opportunities for migrant entrepreneurs to network, meet clients, suppliers and develop partnerships.

​The purpose is also to help migrant entrepreneurs to generate more sales, expand their network of contacts and grow their businesses as well as the promotion of integration between British entrepreneurs and migrant entrepreneurs, so migrants can learn about the business culture too. We also welcome British entrepreneurs who want to attend and exhibit at the event - it's a great opportunity to make international connections.

Do you think it’s important to export? Why?

​Exporting is important for businesses and countries. It builds bridges between companies and countries and contributes to the economy. And businesses need to be ready to export - processes need to be in place, paperwork, and certificates. However, no business is too small to benefit.

A lot of small businesses owned by migrants import food and clothes from their own country to serve their community. This helps both countries: the home country where the food is coming from, and the hosting country. The more businesses grow, the more tax is generated and jobs are created.

What are your top tips for businesses looking to do business with other countries?

​If you are going to do business with China, when you receive their business cards make sure you hold it with both hands and look at the card before you put it away.

In France when you send an email to someone you are doing business with, write their surname in capital letters. Also you never address it to their first name - always the surname. They also don't have verbal agreements: ​everything is in writing.

Germany follows similar rules - address emails to their surname, but not in capital letters. You never start an email with 'Hi' (it's too informal) - you start with 'Sehr geehrte Frau' (for women) and 'Sehr geehrter Herr' (for men). Germans are very formal in their business dealings. And rather than ending an email in a friendly manner like 'Have a nice day', it's always 'Kindest regards' or similiar.


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