Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt Fixings and Karen Knight, International Trade Adviser, UK Trade & Investment share their top tips for entrepreneurs interested in international expansion.
It’s only one year since Jordan Daykin held his first meeting with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to explore export opportunities for Melksham based, GripIt Fixings. In just 12 months the business has secured distribution in thirty three countries worldwide and seen turnover grow exponentially from £450,000 to £2.5 million.
Jordan Daykin has been a huge inspiration to entrepreneurs since his first appearance on Dragons Den in 2014.
Working with Karen Knight, International Trade Adviser, UKTI, Jordan has developed ten straight talking top tips to take the mystique out of export and help other local business owners get to grips with it. Jordan has his sights firmly set on further international growth with both his original product and with a number of other exciting new developments in the pipeline.
1. Research Your Markets
“Don’t dive straight into selling! Spend time on researching the markets you are interested in building your business in. You might have a great product or services and it might be selling well in the UK market but what are the differences in the new markets you are looking at? As well as cultural and language barriers to work through you may also be faced with different competitors, different laws, different routes to market, different patterns of buying behaviour,” said Jordan.
“There is so much information available on the internet and desk research is a great place to start but no experience is more powerful than visiting the market you are interested in, meeting connections on the ground and hearing first hand about the nuances of a market. Jordan took this advice and working with UKTI, visited the US a number of times before GripIt secured their first deal there” added Karen.
2. Use Resources Available to You
“Once we’d done our desk research and leveraged all our own contacts for information, we worked with UKTI to get us ready to export”, said Jordan.
“To deepen their knowledge of the US market, Grip It worked with UKTI to undertake independent research in order to provide conclusions and recommendations to inform the approach to market entry.
We also analysed the skill set of the Grip It team and provided training, planning and ongoing counsel, in order to get the business in the best possible shape for international expansion,” added Karen.
3. What’s your Strategy?
“Once you feel well informed and you have chosen the markets to focus on that present the best opportunity, it’s time to develop a strategy but be prepared to have a different approach to export tailored to the business opportunity in each market. It’s unlikely that ‘one size will fit all’. There are lots of options, for instance will you start a franchise network, distributor network or work with joint venture partners? Your research should tell you what the best route is for you!” said Jordan.
4. Know Your Stuff!
“It can be fairly daunting especially as a young entrepreneur to be hosting meetings with new contacts in foreign lands. You want to be taken seriously. What you lack in experience of that market you need to make up for in preparation and by showing you know every nook and cranny of your business, all your numbers and your vision for the future. Sure, you might not know how to build the best export strategy by yourself, but if you want to instill confidence in your potential business contacts then you need to show you have the capability and the capacity to do it!” said Jordan.
5. Be A Storyteller
“People buy into people – as the face of your enterprise, it’s important to remember that whether it’s your investors or your consumers, they are associating your brand with you and investing based on that impression.
So, don’t hide behind a corporate façade. Instead, be open and share your story – how did you start your business? What was your inspiration? Why should people put their faith in you? The passion and dedication you as an individual show, the more people will believe in your product or service,” said Jordan.
6. Use the Power of Social Media
“You might not have decades of export experience behind you, but in this day and age you do have the web on your side. Our generation has been brought up as digital natives, experts in navigating our way through social networks and the blogosphere since we were tweens.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media in business. It’s great for connecting with your consumers and putting your business in front of potential partners and investors. While we were crowd funding, I was continually updating my social following on our progress, spreading the word – and we overfunded in just five days.
As you start to gather facts, information and contacts about new markets leverage your social media channels. For instance, seek business leads and a network through LinkedIn, build buzz through twitter to help amplify the reach of your messages and look at which social media channels have the most penetration in the new markets you are interested in,” suggests Jordan.
7. Look Beyond Bank Financing
“ If you need further investment to make your export dreams come true, then remember there are many alternative sources of financing out there beyond traditional high street banks, so don’t be disheartened if your first application for investment is turned down. Look into government funding schemes – there are several designed specifically to encourage entrepreneurs – and don’t forget the investor community in the UK. Venture capitalists and angel investor are always looking to back the next big idea.”
“I used a number of these routes to raise investment for my business, including backing from Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden and more recently crowdfunding. The great thing about crowdfunding is it enables a new or growing business to tap into a wider community of consumer investors, as well as creates a buzz in the media,” added Jordan.
8. Be Driven By Your Values
“I stand by a number of core values for my business and believe that every entrepreneur and business owner should do the same. A clear set of business values form the foundation of a brand’s identity – a vital component in any pitch, not to mention in attracting a loyal following.
For example, I have always believed in “made in Britain” products and remain committed to manufacturing GripIt Fixings in the UK as it allows me to have better control over how my product is made and manage supply. I’m also passionate about developing and training my peers, and hire many young people as well as experienced professionals to progress the business.
There’s no real wrong or right answer, provided you don’t flip flop from principle to principle, so decide what’s important to you and stick to it.
Remember that as you export you need to ensure the partners and distributors and employees that you work with share your values and that they will live, on your behalf, the principles that you have founded your business on,” said Jordan.
9. Find Great Mentors
“While you need to be self-assured in your business decisions and prepared to strive towards your goals, don’t ignore the wisdom and advice of mentors. The right mentor could very well help you reach heights you never thought were achievable and weather storms you simply couldn’t conquer alone.
My first mentor was my grandfather, a successful entrepreneur himself, who helped me create the initial concept for GripIt Fixings right at the beginning, and continues to be an incredible support to this very day. Then, since investing in GripIt Fixings in 2014, Deborah has been an invaluable source of guidance, and has really helped to shape my understanding of the business world. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them both in my life.
I also seek advice from various experts at UKTI who Karen Knight, my International Trade Adviser is able to connect me with,” said Jordan.
“ It is rare to find such a young motivated person who has his own ideas but is very welcoming of others and their ideas and guidance. I think embracing mentorship has been one of the reasons Jordan has been so very successful,” added Karen.
10. Think Ahead
“GripIt has gone from a garden shed to being distributed to 33 countries worldwide, so I’m a firm believer that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
It’s impossible to plan for every eventuality or problem that might arise in business, but careful planning is far more likely to put you in a good position for overcoming obstacles in your way or turning threats into opportunities rather than just winging it. Take the same approach to export!
So what if you’ve had one good meeting with a potential distributor? Meet more distributors, meet more contacts, make more connections and never stop doing that! Be prepared to accept that what is right for your business today, may not be tomorrow, and that if there is one constant in life then it’s change,” concluded Jordan.
Pictured above: Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt Fixings