Exporting can seem like such a large step to the smallest businesses on our island, however, it can be less daunting with the help of InterTradeIreland’s ‘Elevate’ programme which supports micro-businesses as they make this move. The sales development programme assists small businesses, in particular those with fewer than ten employees, to develop sales opportunities through first time cross-border exports.
The Elevate programme provides sector-specific sales support of up to £5,000 across a range of sectors including food and beverage, ICT and Engineering as well as many others. The programme has already helped 245 small businesses and since 2013, those businesses which have been surveyed following completion of Elevate have generated new cross-border sales of approximately £2.6million. In addition, over the same period, 31 new jobs were created and 52 were sustained.
Small businesses participating in Elevate can choose from a list of more than 100 experienced industry specialists. These experts can then help them to identify sales leads in the cross-border market, negotiate deals, share relevant market insights, identify market research requirements and offer advice on the development of marketing materials.
Programme success for Antrim company
A shining example of what can be achieved through the Elevate programme, is the achievements of Advance Machinery Installation Ltd, a micro-business from Antrim. The company specialises in the relocation of single pieces of machinery right through to complete factory moves and re-organisations. All of Advance’s clients are large manufacturers and customers in Northern Ireland include Bombardier, Diageo, Ryobi, Coca-Cola and Kerry Group.
Before the Elevate programme, Advance carried out around 90% of its business in Northern Ireland with the remaining 10% in the Republic of Ireland. Alistair Carson, director, believed that the cross-border market could offer new leads but he didn’t have the time or resources to investigate properly.
Potential cross-border leads
In the past the firm had approached the cross-border market periodically and had never proactively searched for new business. They knew that there could potentially be leads but with a small team, the micro-business was busy focusing on the clients they already had.
Results of the Elevate Programme
Advance Machinery was delighted with the Elevate programme and said that what they had achieved within six months of taking part would have taken them years! Where the firm had previously relied on the phone ringing to get jobs in the south, the Elevate consultant had turned this approach on its head and now the business was actively pursuing business.
This targeted approach has been very beneficial to Advance Machinery and it has highlighted that there really are opportunities out there if you go looking for them.
Since taking part in the Elevate programme, the firm has increased the level of business they do in the Republic of Ireland from 10% to 30%. They have secured orders in Ireland in the region of £240,000 through Elevate, including major contracts with Sonoco, Manninckrodt and Norland with several other leads to take forward.
Support necessary to expedite success
As small companies make up 96% of businesses on the island it is essential that they receive the support they require to expand and flourish.
The cross-border market is often an underutilised but logical first step to wider export markets, giving experience of varied legislation and working with a different currency but has the comfort of being more accessible. Once mastered this makes looking at European markets a more realistic prospect. The Elevate programme was designed with simplicity in mind to remove as much bureaucracy as possible. As such, a relatively simple and straight-forward application process was devised and put in place. I would urge all interested small businesses with less than £1million turnover to register their interest and apply to Elevate today.
Like to know more?
For more information on the Elevate programme, including full eligibility criteria visit www.intertradeireland.com/elevate.