Shifting from domestic to international markets can pay immediate dividends for small Irish firms that plan the move carefully. One SME that has learned the value of selling overseas is Global Sustainable Materials (GSM).
Embracing international markets
‘‘Our original focus was the domestic Irish market,’’ said Colette van Jaarsveld, director of GSM. ‘‘We soon realised that our clients were global, so we decided we had to embrace the international market.
‘‘Hence, we changed our trading name to Global Sustainable Materials in 2010. The majority of our work is now internationally based, with clients in Germany, the UK, Dubai and South Africa. If we were to change anything, we would have focused immediately on the international audience.’’
Van Jaarsveld established GSM in 2007 with Keith Rose to help companies use sustainable design and materials when building or fitting out premises.
‘‘Through our previous company, Arcology Design, we had been focusing on sustainable design and in particular sustainable fit out for a number of years previously,’’ said van Jaarsveld.
‘‘We became frustrated at the fact that all emphasis regarding sustainability was focused on utilities and services within the building. We decided to put our expertise and passion for materials into a new company with a specialist offering.’ GSM sells consultancy services in sustainable design as well as sustainable products.
‘‘Our offering is quite specialist and niche. We add value not only by supplying materials and products, but also through consulting, design and end- fabrication. We work with developers, architects and designers directly regarding their workplace strategy and Corporate Social Responsibility,’’ said van Jaarsveld.
Based in Dublin, GSM employs four staff. It has worked with companies from a broad range of sectors in Ireland and overseas.
‘‘One of our initial clients was Sony. Our fit-out for them was commended for sustainability and awarded best commercial fit-out in the 2009 Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) awards. Other clients have included Aviva, Savills and Google,’’ said van Jaarsveld. The 93 different sustainable products offered by GSM range from materials used internally, such as banana veneer, recycled glass, stone veneer and mulberry flooring, to cladding manufactured from paper and eco-friendly additives for external use.
‘‘We relentlessly challenge sustainable design to align with your triple bottom line people, profits and the planet. Sustainable products and design are not necessarily more expensive, it depends on how they are utilised and the design approach taken,’’ said van Jaarsveld.
Challenging sustainable design
‘‘Many of our products such as coconut panels and fish leather are by-products from other industries. They are not only beautiful, but help meet an important requirement for employment in many emerging countries.’’ Van Jaarsveld said the next step for GSM would be to set up offices in other countries.
‘‘We intend to have offices in Dubai and South Africa up and running by the end of this year. Both myself and Keith are from South Africa, and we see opportunities there and in other African markets,’’she said.