Pioneering Export Network launches as We are International campaign becomes a reality


More than 100 businesses took part in the launch of the We Are International Export Network - a key element of a new campaign to increase exports by Leeds City Region companies by £2.6bn by 2018.

Current and potential exporting businesses of all sizes and sectors attended the network’s inaugural event on 12 March at the offices of global law firm, DLA Piper, in Leeds or took part through video conference links from Huddersfield and York.

The Export Network brings together experienced exporters from a wide range of industry sectors who will act as ambassadors, champions and mentors for businesses looking to start trading internationally or enter new markets.

Proven exporters, including Eric Hawthorn, managing director of Radio Design Ltd, Shipley; John Chacksfield co-founder of Trio Healthcare Ltd, Skipton, who holds a Queens Award for Export and is a self-confessed ‘exportaholic’; and Neil Park, commercial sales director at Lighthouse Automotive, Leeds, described their export experience and provided practical advice to potential exporters.

Eric, also a member of the LEP’s Business Innovation & Growth (BIG) Panel, said that, despite the benefits of international trade, Yorkshire is a poor exporter. He said: “The Leeds City Region is currently running a £1.6bn trade deficit for its products and services, which this campaign aims to turn into a £1bn surplus by 2018.

“Two thirds of businesses do not even have exporting as part of their growth strategy but research shows that exporting businesses are generally more successful and resilient than those who do not.”

John Chacksfield, whose company manufacture silicone medical devices and generates 75 per cent of its turnover from overseas sales, said that exporting had helped the business, which had only nine staff, to quickly build up a multi-million pound turnover and attract an international buyer only six years after its launch.

He said that while Chamber International and UKTI had been ‘hugely important’ to Trio Healthcare’s success, in retrospect he wishes he had sought their professional support earlier.

Would-be, novice and experienced exporters who attended the event were enthused by the help available.

Sarah Brabbin, Director of international design and marketing communications business Glo Design, Barnsley, said: “I work for a clothing company which exports and have done a little myself in the Netherlands, and Jamaica.

“I came along because I fancy a new challenge and definitely found this really useful. I was really impressed at how open and helpful all the speakers were. You really feel they can help you succeed.”

Fahid Ben-Ahmed, technical sales director of Bradford-based Medical Instruments (UK) Ltd, which manufactures stainless steel surgical instruments, added: “We were founded about 18 months ago and have already exported to Dubai and The Middle East but want to do more.

“To be successful overseas we’ll need to find distributors and events like this are really useful for pointing you in the right direction. It is good that everyone is so happy to help.”

Geoff Lane and son Andrew, from Harrogate-based Scinomed Ltd, have developed a plasma product collection for the bio-pharmaceutical industry. Geoff said: “We have spent the first four years creating our products and obtaining the correct registration licenses and CE marks for Class II medical products which is time consuming.

“I have export experience with similar products for another company but this is the first time in our own right. Clearly, the chance to obtain help from someone such as John Chacksfield, who works in a similar field, will be really useful to us.”

The event also included a presentation from Director of the Centre for International Business at the University of Leeds, Prof. Jeremy Clegg. Prof. Clegg described the latest research on European integration, emerging markets and China, and how this could help exporting companies.

The launch was attended by two visiting Canadian trade advisors, Valerie Strand and Tish Nicholls who spoke about the potential of the Canadian market for the Leeds City Region exporters with the right product or service.

The Export Network is part of the We are International campaign, an initiative by the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Chamber International and UKTI to boost our region’s economy by improving exporting performance, particularly to growth markets.