The phrase “New Year, new me” is thrown around by people across the world at the stroke of midnight every January 1. But without strategy and goals things are unlikely to change, which is true for personal targets and more so in business.
So now that 2019, the year of Brexit, is finally here after over two years since that decisive and divisive EU referendum took place, we wanted to find out first-hand how UK entrepreneurs across sectors will tackle their international aspirations. Here’s what they had to say.
Will Fletcher, managing director of LeaseFetcher, the car leasing comparison site, is in the process of thorough research ahead of plunging into international waters, having only launched in Britain during the first quarter of 2018. “We’ve steadily cemented our position in the UK market and we’re now looking to expand towards the international market too,” he says. “We plan on doing that by completing a pretty comprehensive analysis of the leasing situation in each country and the competitors to watch out for.”
Fletcher is under no illusion that the expansion won’t come complete with challenges. “The uncertainty that Brexit is creating obviously makes predicting the success of investments overseas a lot more challenging,” he opines, adding that predicting the UK car market’s performance is near on impossible. “The signs don’t look promising – especially if a no-deal Brexit goes ahead. Businesses just don’t have the knowledge about potential customs arrangements that they need in order to plan for the future so investments are much riskier than normal.”
As such, LeaseFetcher is running small test campaigns in different countries to assess how Brexit could impact it, with consultants placed in each market to manage analysis. Despite the concern, Fletcher believes there’s a unique opportunity. “There is a real gap in the market for user-friendly leasing companies and ours is leading the way in the UK,” he says. “We’ve secured our position, things are ticking along well and, now we have breathing space, it makes sense to think about our future plans and direction.”
With clients including Wahaca and Jamie’s Italian, Yumpingo, the restaurant intelligence startup, views the UK as a starting block for the grand plan. “Focus is key when you’re starting out but our vision has always been to establish a global technology platform,” says Yumpingo founder and CEO Gary Goodman. “The UK has been our test market, ensuring our platform is effective and that we have the playbook in place to effectively launch overseas.”
While keen to grab international opportunities, he notes the UK will always be an essential market for customer base and product development. “We launched in the US last year with TGI Fridays,” says Goodman. “The market is 14 times the size of the UK for our core customer base, with US consumers spending more money eating out of home than eating in. So whilst the opportunity to connect consumers with kitchens in real time to transform the guest experience is everywhere, the US is our natural next step.”
To ensure the move across the pond goes well, finding the staff with local knowledge will be key for Yumpingo’s push. With a VP of US sales and VP of US operations, 2019 will see the American team grow further. “In Q1 we’re also launching operations in Europe, both with existing customers with an international presence and new customers,” details Goodman. The technical platform is serverless so a bit of coding is all it takes to enter new territories without delay, with hardware shipped from headquarters accordingly. “If we didn’t anticipate bumps in the road, we would have fallen over a long time ago,” he adds, recognising that the path to success doesn’t always run smooth. “A key value for our company is to run fast and learn faster,” he says. “Feedback is our fuel that ensures we’re able to do that and we culturally embrace times when new obstacles emerge.”
Founded out of London, Jungle Creations, the social media company, launched in New York in September 2017 and followed up with further North American growth with offices in Los Angeles and Toronto. “As our audience is global, it made sense for us to partner with international clients on branded campaigns to help them reach the demographics they need to,” says Jamie Bolding, founder and CEO of Jungle Creations.
And having closed a £3m series A investment at the end of 2018, the business plans to really establish itself in America. “Over the last year the US made up 20% of our sales revenue and with the growth of the team and launch of our Toronto office, we plan to double that and increase its share of the commercial revenue generated,” declares Bolding. He admits that the market is totally different from a commercial aspect when compared to the UK but adds that local specialists are in place to help. “The main challenge is education and awareness in the market so we’ll be putting all of our efforts into ensuring potential clients know who we are and what we do,” he concludes.
Floom, the marketplace for florists, launched in early 2016, so founder and CEO Lana Elie immediately concedes that “it can appear a little abnormal” for such a young company to look beyond the home market so soon but felt the move was a no-brainer. “The first thing that triggered the idea was noticing how many of our UK deliveries were actually coming from a global customer base,” says Elie. A fifth of orders were US-based at the time the numbers were crunched, which she notes was “a substantial amount considering we didn’t actually deliver into the US market [then].” Unsurprisingly, the appeal was great. “The likelihood of these customers also having reasons to send in their home turf would be high, therefore providing great reason for them to return,” she reasons.
Floom bit into the Big Apple just two years after launching, while partners could also be found in the City of Angels as of October 2018. With 2019 here though, Floom intends to get even more ambitious with five US city launches across the year. “Whilst every city presents its own nuances and challenges, we have now got a streamlined process for new cities that enables us to launch quicker and more effectively,” Elie details. “From digital marketing to content, there’s a set plan for each department to execute ahead of launch. After a new city has launched, we constantly review it.” That means complacency is definitely not an option, with conversion rates and user experiences among the factors analysed. “Whilst we meticulously plan and forecast for every city launch, naturally there are things that don’t always go exactly to plan – from florists to customer service to AdWords,” says Elie, noting strategies to manage issues are essential, with 2019 growth to benefit from all the lessons of 2018.
Looking at the year ahead, ATG Access, the manufacturer of road blockers and barriers, has a steep hill to climb but solid momentum behind it, having achieved its most successful exporting year to date in 2018. “2019 will see ATG Access continuing its international push, expanding into new markets and nurturing existing relationships in overseas territories,” says managing director Gavin Hepburn. “Leading up to 2020, we have a revenue growth projection of 35%. This will be achieved by continuous product development to meet client and market security requirements.” The South East Asian market will be one of the key target markets, with Singapore, China and Japan already demonstrating a solid appetite for ATG products. “This has been due in part to the huge economic growth that China is currently experiencing and the next Olympic Games that is set to take place in Tokyo in 2020,” Hepburn explains.
To capitalise on this, ATG will be working to improve understanding of the region and develop both products and skills accordingly. For Japan in particular, an Overseas Market Introduction Service report in conjunction with the British Embassy has been commissioned to assess risk and rewards. “We have found it extremely challenging to break into Japan and to do so has required huge amounts of focus and determination,” Hepburn says. This is a result of the country’s complex culture, which means good personal relationships must be established with clients in order to succeed. “A pivotal part of our strategy has centred around actually visiting Japan to meet potential partners and this is something that we will ensure we continue to do in 2019, so maintain the momentum we’ve now started to gather there,” he adds.
Hepburn believes vehicle attacks witnessed worldwide will increase the demand for its services. “Following a positive response in the UK, which has seen the technology installed across a number of major cities and events, we are expecting similar orders to come into fruition from the USA and Australia over the next year.”
With sales in 80 countries already, it’s fair to say exports are explosive for Grenade, the sports nutrition company – especially when half of those markets are served directly from the UK. Grenade co-founder Alan Barratt admits that global growth “just happened” rather than any strategy being put in place initially. “We found that nailing your domestic market is key to global success,” he says. “As our name began to spread and the demand began to grow overseas, we were able to naturally explore relationships with foreign buyers.”
With US and EU deals secured back in 2011, the company is still out to build its reach. “Our customer base stretches as far as the Far East, including recent deals with retailers in Hong Kong and Malaysia,” details Alan’s wife and co-founder Juliet Barratt. In addition to maintaining those relationships, the US office will be developed further to manage sales locally as well as scale exports from the States when the new year rolls around. “2019 will be an especially exciting year for our Middle Eastern expansion – we’re currently building a team in Dubai, where we now have an office,” she adds.
Having experienced mistakes in the past, the Barratts accept it’s part of the process when growing globally, which they feel is fine as long as you learn from them. “The biggest difficulty we may encounter next year though is likely to be currency fluctuations,” says Alan. “With Brexit on the agenda, it’s difficult to predict with any kind of certainty our relationship with the global market. But we’re entrepreneurs, it’s in our nature to navigate a way though.”