Editor's round-up: You might as well export

Editor's round-up: You might as well export

Cargo ship leaving Southampton by Bally_Hoo

In just three weeks or so, we'll be hosting our Go Global events as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. This, as its name suggests, is all about inspiring enterprising people to add a new dimension to their business by looking beyond their local and national markets and trading overseas. Why do it? Why bother with the effort and hassle of selling to people in other countries, for example? Aside from the fact that it's often no more effort or hassle than selling to someone in the next town, I think there are two reasons- 'you' and 'us' (or 'micro' and 'macro', if you want to use a bit of economics terminology).

It's all about you"¦

Firstly, the micro: that's you - your business, your income, your aspirations, your life. Once upon a time you might have been selling, say, sock monkeys or cupcakes or prints, and you might have felt pretty confined to your local area. If someone had suggested you set up an export operation, you may well have gone a bit cross-eyed and pointed out that only bigger businesses did that sort of thing. Now that we're all buying and selling online, though, it's now damn near impossible to justify this response. The truth is, there are tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands of tiny British businesses selling goods and services all over the world. It might just be the odd thing here and there, though. So I say: you might as well export. As in, you might as well recognise the opportunity, start targeting specific overseas markets where you're making the odd sale and do things properly. You may be selling a product with niche appeal; but add up all those niche markets in different countries around the world and you have a very healthy customer base indeed. Find them, target them, sell to them. Besides, it makes life so much more interesting. As illustrator Neal McCullough of Hand Drawn Creative told me last week: "It's exciting to know your artwork is going to exotic, sunny places like the Hollywood Hills - especially when it's grey and raining over here!" He's right, you know.

"¦ and us

Then there's the macro reason, the 'us'. This is where things all start to get a bit more urgent. The 'us' I'm referring to is all of us here in the UK, the entire population. I read somewhere recently that we export more to the Republic of Ireland alone than we do to all of the world's fastest growing economies put together. That, frankly, is shocking. I'll just remind you: the Irish economy is in an appalling state and they really don't buy that much from us (about 4% of our total exports, if I recall). The economies of our biggest export markets in Europe and North America aren't exactly rocking either. I tend to view this as being a bit like picking the kid with the twisted ankle for your park football team when the entire Brazil youth team is hanging around looking for a game. Developing economies want to play, too; they want to sell their raw materials and manufacturing services to Britain and they absolutely want to buy British goods. So why not pick them? Really, why not?

Do it. Now.

It's not impossible. Actually, in many cases, it's really not that hard at all. There's a growing infrastructure to enable trade, supported by organisations like UK Trade & Investment who are beginning to target more of their support at small business. And there are more and more businesses who are doing it for themselves: I've spoken to two home business owners in the last week, for example, who have used to source international suppliers (in China and Pakistan, as it happens); and I'm losing count of the number of people I've spoken to who are selling via Etsy. What I'm finding, however, is that we're still very attached to our traditional, Western, preferably English-speaking markets. But let's get this straight: there is no significant growth in disposable income happening in these countries. There is massive growth in disposable income happening in China, Brazil, India, Mexico, etc, etc. Our astonishing economic success has been built on an unquenchable sense of adventure - and a determination to open up new markets, cross frontiers and trade with radically different cultures from our own (yeah, ok, I'm glossing over some of the nasty bits, but you get my drift). Right now, the world economy is undergoing a major long-term shift. As a nation we have to shift with it or, frankly, we're going to get a good hammering down the park from the Brazil youth team. So why not? Really? You might as well export.

Get half-price Go Global tickets!

We're offering a 50% discount on Go Global tickets to Enterprise Nation readers. For just £25, you can attend the full-day Go global conference on 15th November and hear from international trade experts and successful small businesses; plus, you'll be able to attend a day of practical workshops on 17th November. Just use the 'EN' discount code when making your booking. Image by Bally_Hoo
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