Yorkshire overseas trade network counts successes after 12 months

More than 80 Yorkshire businesses have accessed first-hand advice on trading overseas from some of the region’s most experienced exporters in the 12 months since the launch of ExportExchange, a free peer-to-peer overseas trade network for Leeds City Region businesses.


The programme, which is backed by the European Regional Development Fund, matches would-be exporters with firms from the region that are already selling successfully overseas and can offer free personal advice on all aspects of exporting.


In the year since the programme was launched 82 businesses have signed up to the ExportExchange network, giving them one-on-one help and guidance from a group of 60 patrons – highly experienced business people who have signed up to share insights into overseas markets. Twenty three companies have also been referred to Department for International Trade to access Exporting for Growth funding, which helps SMEs trade overseas.


Among the fledgling export businesses to benefit from ExportExchange is Skipton-based confectionery firm Whitakers Chocolates, which supplies millions of chocolates a week to retailers and restaurants. With the aim of getting relevant advice on exploring overseas sales, the firm’s sales manager Ian Webster made contact with ExportExchange patron and Taylors of Harrogate international director Garry Nield.


“As well as pointing us in the right direction on the best overseas markets and trade shows for Whitakers, Garry has also been an invaluable sounding board and support. It’s great to know that we can email him whenever something comes up that we need advice on,” said Mr Webster.


“It was tremendously useful meeting Garry and getting the sort of insight that only someone who has actually been there and done it can provide.” Whitakers now plans to exhibit at ISM Cologne, the world’s largest confectionery exhibition, in January.


Sweet Revolution, a healthy drinks producer based in Wetherby, has also received help in developing an export strategy with one-to-one advice from Harrogate Spring Water’s Greg Hatton, the firm’s export and new business manager.


Jane Nicholls, who founded the business in 2009, said: “It’s early days for us in terms of exporting but it was so helpful to be able to talk things through with Greg via ExportExchange. He gave us some very useful tips, such as using the DIT’s free due diligence service, and also offered to help establish whether there is a market opportunity for our drinks range in Saudi Arabia.”


ExportExchange network manager Victorian Boldison said: “In its first year ExportExchange has proved to be an essential resource for SMEs that are considering exporting. The importance for businesses of being able to access advice and information from firms such as Taylors and Harrogate Spring Water on how to make a success of selling overseas has been demonstrated many times over.


“We have more would-be exporters joining the programme all the time and I would urge anyone who is considering exports to register for free advice and support.”