When flying the flag for business Britishness, entrepreneurs needn’t just wave a Union Jack out of their office window. It can be enough to showcase the timeless style inherent in the British culture. Indeed, fashion brand Kempadoo-Millar is proving exporting success can be within your reach as long as you offer a truly unique product.
Rhian Kempadoo-Millar started exporting her range of Leeds-manufactured flat caps just one year after first opening in 2013. “After recognising the huge opportunities that lie in exporting, we began working in conjunction with several mentors and skilled export strategists to develop a solid export plan that has allowed us to reach 28 countries worldwide,” the founder and managing director tells Elite Global. Her main ambition was to revitalise “the declining textiles industry in the north” – something that was viewed “as old fashioned, outdated and not very glamorous.”
In addition to Brits including Prince Charles, actor Idris Elba and boxing champion Anthony Joshua as wearers of the hats, Kempadoo-Millar has secured customers in the US, Malaysia, Dubai, Russia and Burma over the past six years of operation. “We’re now working towards taking products to other parts of the world,” says Kempadoo-Millar, who has one of her mentors located in Hong Kong. The company’s website has been a key method through which sales have been generated abroad, with redevelopments including currency switching and language options to prevent any friction.
But while there’s appeal for the Yorkshire-made hats overseas, consumers wouldn’t necessarily refer to them in the same way. “We have had to conduct extensive research into the native word for flat caps in different countries and cultures across the world,” says Kempadoo-Millar. “In America and Australia, the term flat cap wouldn’t be recognised. It has been critical for our export strategy that we adapt our SEO and online marketing efforts to reflect this.”
Another area of importance to recognise as the business looks to expand overseas is identifying all the necessary intellectual property measures to ensure the company is protected appropriately. “We’re also working on our IP strategy as we grow the business through exporting and recognise we’ll need to spend significant time on this to protect our ideas overseas,” she says.
In addition to her mentors, Kempadoo-Millar has also had discussions with the Department for International Trade to seek additional support and will often attend its workshops to further her understanding of the markets she hopes to penetrate as the business scales. “With the flat cap seeing a resurgence over the last few years, Kempadoo Millar has been at the heart of that, with its caps crowning many household names since it was founded,” she says. Kempadoo-Millar pointed to fusions of Yorkshire tweeds with vibrant silk and quirky details to give her products some originality and flavour. “I want to put the Yorkshire cool back into the flat cap with something that is more funky than farmer,” she declares.