Paul Lindley, founder, Ella’s Kitchen on the support British businesses need to crack overseas markets
It’s fair to say that 2012 was a landmark year for Britain. It was the year when the world fixed its gaze on the UK and took part in an unparalleled international celebration around London 2012 and the Jubilee. After Britain hosted one of the most successful Olympic Games in memory, the world unanimously agreed that the biggest winner was the British public itself. Gone was the reputation of Britons as being unfriendly, unapproachable or lacking in warmth, rightly replaced with an up-to-date impression of the UK as a multi-cultural hub of cosmopolitanism.
Fast-forward to 2013 and this good will is in danger of wasting away. We have entered an undeniably bleak spring, with the optimism and can-do spirit engendered by the events of last year quickly falling victim to the reality of an ever-worsening economic outlook, with yet more problems in the Eurozone and another year of negative growth predicted.
This pessimism can become contagious. Unless curbed, it will infect the very businesses that could be the saviors of UK plc.
Britain’s sense of creativity and entrepreneurialism is famous around the world. Beyond the patriotic sentiment this inspires, our reputation is also an asset we must exploit and use with confidence when selling ourselves to potential trade partners. For such a small island, Britain punches well above its weight, but we need to maintain a fighting spirit or risk falling behind in the global race to recovery.
I founded Ella’s Kitchen seven years ago, and since our products hit supermarket shelves in 2006, the company has consistently grown in profitability, with turnover doubling every year.
We launched internationally in 2009 and are now selling products in 12 international markets – our international sales last year increased by 76 per cent. The strength of the Ella’s Kitchen brand has been absolutely vital to this growth and earned us fantastic recognition around the world, not least from the UK’s own National Business Awards, which last year named Ella’s Kitchen its International Growth Business of the Year.
Our brand, along with the team behind it, is our biggest asset. Just like any business, Britain needs to strengthen its brand and its team of businesses so that it is ready to go to market and meet its international trade potential. It needs to demonstrate a will to win.
My business is just one player in a food and drinks industry that contributes £12bn alone in exports to the UK economy, but Britain is home to an enviably diverse range of high-growth, high-potential businesses. This diversity is what makes Britain unique and we need entrepreneurs to not only bring their brands to market here, but also to export them globally, to help drive revenue and growth for the UK.
The UK needs an export boom now more than ever as it strives to accelerate economic recovery, so it is crucial we encourage our emerging businesses and brands to go global.
British businesses have lingered in the shadows for too long, tiptoeing rather than boldly stepping out into international markets. A recent report by pollster IpsosMori shows that a pervasive lack of confidence among Britons could be holding the nation back. If the Government is going to reach its target of doubling exports by 2020 it needs to instill a sense of confidence in these high-potential companies. It needs to celebrate its outstanding brands, its manufacturers and its innovating, disruptive entrepreneurs. Britain’s businesses need a signal that now is the time to go global, so they can prepare to fly the “Made in Britain” flag with pride.
Positive steps, but are they enough?
There are steps being taken in the right direction. Next year, attention will be on the UK again when it hosts both the Commonwealth Games and the International Festival for Business – a global showcase for British brands and industry that will mark the biggest international promotion of UK trade and industry for 60 years.
Importantly, it is an active demonstration that the UK is open for business and ready to sell itself with confidence to international markets. It’s a declaration that Britain is not happy to sit on the sidelines as the rest of the world moves without us. It signals our determination to play an active role in the international community.
Visits like the Prime Minister’s trade mission to India earlier this year are also vital to help trading relationships fulfill their potential. They play a huge role in creating the connections that UK businesses can benefit from, and set the foundations for a comprehensive sharing of resources and ideas between nations. Most importantly, they deliver a confident message about ‘Brand Britain’ and the assets that it has to offer.
The reality is that Britain is in a global race. Countries are battling for contracts in markets across the world, hungry to bolster their own economies with long-lasting trading agreements.
As it stands, we’re in significant danger of letting ourselves be pushed to the back of the queue. In this race, there is no safety within the pack. UK plc must set itself apart and go the extra mile in pitting its businesses and brands against the world’s best.
However, much needs to be done to transform the recessional mind set, and re-imagine recession as an opportunity for global expansion. A sluggish market at home merely highlights the growth potential overseas – with each export, the UK’s position is strengthened and confidence improved.
Britain must put an end to this hesitant way it has of selling itself. We need to shout that there’s a wealth of opportunity waiting in the wings. Now is the time for those entrepreneurial businesses to be given the confidence to take centre stage, and ensure Britain remains firmly in the spotlight.
- Britain is home to a diverse range of innovative high-growth businesses that must be encouraged to expand internationally
- The government must give clear signals that it is confident in our exporting potential
- Trade missions and events in 2014 will help but British businesses must stop being hesitant about global expansions
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