With the latest InterTradeIreland Business Monitor showing that almost half of the smallest businesses across the island are contracting or in survival mode (Q1 2013), it is increasingly clear that they have been hit hardest by the recession. Many often rely on local demand to sell their goods and services but it is vital that in order to thrive and grow, they need to look to other markets and take advantage of the business supports that are on offer to help them do so.
The cross-border market is often an underutilised but logical first step to wider export markets. It provides experience of working with a different currency and varied legislation while being more accessible with no language barriers. Once mastered this makes looking at European markets a more realistic prospect. However, small businesses still need to have a clear export strategy in place to capitalise on this opportunity and this is where the InterTradeIreland Elevate programme can help.
Elevate your sales with InterTradeIreland programme
Launched in 2011, the Elevate programme was specifically designed to help local micro-enterprises identify and develop cross-border sales opportunities. It is fully funded by InterTradeIreland and provides access to and assistance from an approved marketing expert up to the value of £5,000. Participating small businesses can choose from a list of more than 100 experienced industry specialists who can then help them to develop a structured export strategy, identify sales leads in the Republic of Ireland, negotiate deals, identify market research requirements and offer advice on the development of marketing materials.
Now into its third year, InterTradeIreland has already helped 90 small businesses to kick-start their cross-border trading and get on the ladder to successful exporting through the Elevate programme. For the 50 micro-enterprises supported through the initial phase of the programme, taking part provided them with a total net benefit of more than £500,000 over a six month period. It is anticipated that these companies will now go on to further develop their export capability and experience an even greater benefit over the next few years.
One such company is Lisburn-based, Play Services Ireland Ltd, which provides inspections and fully accredited training to help ensure the safety of playground equipment. Outlining his experience of the Elevate programme, Mel Campbell, managing director, said: “After two years of developing and growing the company and client-base in Northern Ireland, we felt that we were ready to expand our services to new markets. The Republic of Ireland market was ideal due to the ease of access and geographical closeness… the Elevate programme allowed me to benefit from the support and knowledge of an experienced consultant who brought fresh ideas into the company and worked with us to put together a long-term cross-border sales plan that has helped us win new clients”.
The Next Step
InterTradeIreland is now looking for 50 additional small businesses to participate in the next phase of Elevate. The application process is very simple and I would urge all interested small business with less than £1million turnover to register their interest and apply as soon as possible.
For more information on the Elevate programme, including eligibility criteria visit www.intertradeireland.com/elevate.