SME | CommonwealthFirst | World Champion in SME Support
27
Nov

Paul May, Universal Smart Cards, Export Champion Interview

Paul May, Commercial Director, Universal Smart Cards

Paul May, Commercial Director, Universal Smart Cards

What future trends are you seeing within your industry?
I see a growing market for RFID products as payment is disrupted by new fintechs.  And I see ‘pull through’ from smart phone based apps which need a ‘lowest common denominator’ token = the smart card, smart device.

How did the idea for your business come about?
Universal Smart Cards was founded by the 2 owners 16 years ago to provide an independent flexible customer service orientated smart card business as an alternative to the monolithic global corporate entities.

What makes your business unique?
Our breadth of portfolio, our superb supply chain/partner network, our customer service and our independence set us apart.

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9
Nov

Nicholas Wrigley, Winch Energy, Export Champion Interview

Nick Wrigley Profile

Nicholas Wrigley, CEO

What makes your renewable energy products unique?
There is nothing unique about the technology we use – the technology is top tier, standard tried and tested. What makes our solution unique is that we are continuously perfecting the design to respond to the customer and environment whilst innovating our business models.

How did the idea for your business come about?
Winch was founded in 2006 and originally focused on standard on-grid solar projects in Europe. In 2014, Winch wanted to expand into a new market and began its due diligence in Africa. When analysing the African market, it was clear that the grid was unstable, intermittent and overloaded and it would be unattainable and unaffordable to extend the grid to the majority of the population who were currently living without access to electricity. This is where Winch saw a great opportunity and new business market in off-grid energy.

How do you ensure the maintenance of your products are kept?
In country training is key to what we do. Winch establish an O & M team and customer service center in each country we operate in. Each unit has a full-time agent assigned to it to ensure routine cleaning of the modules and monitoring of the system. Furthermore, we can monitor our units from our London office with our integrated remote monitoring and performance system.

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8
Nov

Export Champions create new route to market in Toronto, Canada

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Canada open for Commonwealth Business

CommonwealthFirst has recently returned from taking a delegation of our Export Champions led by Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council Chairman Lord Marland and the Chief Executive of Royal Mail Group, Moya Greene, to participate at the 11th Toronto Global Forum (TGF) in Canada. The TGF is a major annual business event organised by the International Economic Forum of the Americas.

CommonwealthFirst were invited to participate in the TGF that carried the theme of “Redefining Globalisation” during a year when both Canada and Ottawa are celebrating their 150th anniversary and the new Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement came into force.

Lord Marland said “I was incredibly impressed by the rapid development of Toronto in recent years. Toronto is on track to become one of the world’s leading commercial centres with a fantastic infrastructure to support innovation. Canada could play a leading role in supporting a greater focus on trade and investment within the Commonwealth.”

The intensive trade mission to Toronto included briefings with Councillor Michael Thompson from the City of Toronto, The Honourable Michael Chan, Minister for International Trade Ontario and host of Canadian leaders, trade organisations, accelerators and research institutions. The programme even included a Beethoven Concert by the world leading Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the Roy Thomson Hall.

In addition to helping our Export Champions to do business in Canada this was an opportunity for CommonwealthFirst to strengthen its ties with the Canadian, Ontario and Toronto Governments, and raise the profile of the Commonwealth amongst the Canadian business community.

The visit to Toronto, Canada was the third SME trade mission and follows successful visits to Malaysia/Singapore and the inaugural venture last November to Delhi as part of the India-UK Tech Summit, attended by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

UK SMEs can apply to become part of the fourth cohort of CommonwealthFirst Export Champions through the website: www.commonwealthfirst.org. Applications close on Monday 4th December.

25
Oct

Morten Hagen, SAM Labs, Export Champion Interview

Morten Hagen

Morten Hagen, Head of Strategic Partnerships

How did the idea for your business come about?
SAM Labs was started with the intention of inspiring and empowering children to be prepared for a rapidly changing world by making technology skills accessible and engaging for all.

How do your products integrate/compliment with existing STEM toys like LEGO?
SAM is designed to work with other STEM products and seamlessly integrates with LEGO. The kits come with lego connectors that allow you to bring alive your LEGO creations.

What is your most popular product and why do you think that is?
Our most popular product is the Curious kit. This is because of the great proposition, gamified app that takes you through building awesome cars, and the book of crazy cool ideas that shows you how you can unleash your imagination with SAM!

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
All of the typical difficulties that a startup faces! There are tremendous benefits of being in London, with everything from access to talent, governmental support from both the national and city levels, to financing options, being world class. But even with all of these things stacked in your favour, there are countless challenges to be faced every day. When developing a highly innovative product, there are technical challenges involved with developing and producing your offering. We have also had to build understanding and acceptance in the marketplace, which takes time. Lastly, navigating legal and structural challenges is always quite daunting, especially when exporting.

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17
Oct

Chris Sigley, Redstor Holdings, Export Champion Interview

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Chris Sigley, Sales Director

In a nutshell, what is exactly is Redstor data management technology?
The Redstor Pro data management platform offers a flexible Software as a Service (SaaS) providing backup, disaster recovery and archiving of data sitting on multiple systems, from cloud applications, laptops to desktops and servers- based either in-house, at the customer’s site, a 3rd party data center or on cloud platforms. The technology is built to scale, and supports organization with data volumes from 10GB to 1PB.

What is the key thing that makes your business unique against your strongest competitors both home and abroad?
We have built a platform from the ground up to meet our vision of managing and securing our customer data, whenever, wherever it is stored, all from one place. We have converged Backup, DR and Archiving into one solution for SME companies which is what the market demands. Our platform is cloud ready, partner friendly and through our multi-tenanted architecture, is scalable with the ability to cope with exponentially growing data volumes. We have a strong focus on providing service and as such we are true Software as a Service (SaaS) Data Management company.

How did the idea for your business come about?
We believed there was a real need for a company which specialised in Information Protection and was consultative in approach and service led. At the time, we felt many companies were being oversold by “tin shifters”, who were concerned with selling data management tools as opposed to understanding what the customer truly needed and thereby tailoring a solution to match. Our approach enabled us to grow rapidly as we built tremendous relationships built on trust and understanding.

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10
Oct

Luke Johnstone, PACK’D, Export Champion Interview

Luke Johnstone, Managing Director, PACK'D

Luke Johnstone, Managing Director, PACK’D

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
The biggest difficulties have been navigating a new industry. It is both an advantage (as we have a unique and innovate approach) and a difficulty as we are often learning things for the first time. Mentoring and support from The Prince’s Trust has been a huge help.

What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
Entering new markets for the first time. Experienced mentors through CWF will be invaluable.

What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your business?
Building our community of mentors through The Prince’s Trust, Virgin StartUp and CWF. Bringing strategic investors on board with experience growing Nakd, Chrysallis, MySale, Cardsave and Planet Organic.

How did the idea for your business come about?
A tennis scholarship was abruptly ended by injury but my passion for nutrition remained. Whilst working at the BBC I sought a way to make nutritious smoothies quickly and PACK’D Smoothie Kits were the solution.

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4
Oct

Applications now open for fourth cohort of elite CommonwealthFirst SME programme

 CWF EC

100 companies to be selected in advance of Commonwealth Summit next April.

Today the CommonwealthFirst programme formally opened applications for its fourth cohort intake of UK SMEs. The programme’s mission is to encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to trade and invest across the Commonwealth; a market comprising 52 English speaking countries with a combined population of 2.2 billion – at least 60% of whom are under the age of 30 – and a combined GDP in excess of US$10 trillion.

The Commonwealth Factor, with its shared language, complementary legal systems and business practices, helps to reduce trade costs by around 19% between member countries. By 2020 Commonwealth trade is expected to double to US$1 trillion and the CommonwealthFirst programme will be at the forefront of this new wave of Commonwealth businesses.

This prestigious programme has been developed through a partnership between the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) and Royal Mail with support from i-genius as implementation partner. Export Champions are provided with unique access and support in their quest to win new business in fast growing Commonwealth markets. Their success is showcased as an encouragement to the wider UK business community.

Building on the significant success of the three current cohorts, the fourth cohort will be selected to become Commonwealth Export Champions according to their ambitions, innovative and flexible approach, potential for overseas growth and export-readiness.

Lord Marland, Chairman of the CWEIC, said “as we select the final companies to be part of the initial programme we expect standards to be higher than ever. This is the right time for UK companies to be thinking about global opportunities.”

Successful businesses will have the opportunity to take part in the Commonwealth Games in Queensland in Australia and the Commonwealth Summit in London in April 2018. There will also be a Trade Mission to Africa building on previous missions to India, Malaysia, Singapore and a visit to Canada in October. They will also receive expert mentoring as well as access to tailored training and networking events.

SMEs can apply to become a CommonwealthFirst Export Champion via www.commonwealthfirst.org. Applications close on 4th December and the fourth and final cohort of the initial 3 year pilot programme will be announced in January 2018.

21
Sep

Danielle Copperman, Qnola, Export Champion Interview

Danielle Copperman, Founder

Danielle Copperman, Founder

Tell us about the Wake Up Well™ concept.
We are passionate about encouraging and supporting people to wake up well, but not just through a good breakfast. To us, whilst natural nutrition plays a large part in ensuring you feel and live well, there are many other things which can help to reduce the stresses and strains of modern day life, and particularly how we start each day. How you start the day has a profound impact on how the rest of your day unfolds, and through mindfulness and meditation events, online content, and other products, we are passionate to help people enhance their lives and get the most out of them, one morning at a time.

How did the idea for your business come about?
When I began to make changes to my diet I cut out gluten, grains and refined sugar and this left me, a former granola addict, without much choice for a quick, healthy breakfast in the mornings. I began experimenting with other psuedograins such as quinoa and buckwheat, and that’s how Qnola was born. There was nothing truly healthy on the cereal market and I wanted to change that.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Being a small business with a small team, there are many difficulties but overcoming them is just part of building the business and expanding. I see all difficulties and important lessons and guidance. To begin with, I made all the products by myself as well as distributing them to suppliers and individuals, and this was by far the biggest struggle to overcome, but it got me to where I am today and has made me more involved and more appreciative of the process!

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18
Sep

Karl Bond, Forest Gin, Export Champion Interview

Karl Bond, Director

What makes your Gin unique from everything else that is out there?
Forest Gin is the only gin in the world to have been awarded Two Separate Double-Gold Medals at the San-Francisco World Spirit Awards. We distill combinations of Organic, foraged and carefully sourced ingredients to create the spirit, before blending with fresh water from our own spring in the Peak District. These ingredients, combined with our English Porcelain bottle, really give our Gin unique qualities that we are very proud of.

Any good foraging tips that budding gin makers should be aware of?
Always get the landowners permission. Leave plenty for others. Never pick fruit below waist height (figure that one for yourselves!!)

How did the idea for your business come about?
We were home distillers. Making spirits & drinks for a bit of fun and our own enjoyment! It evolved from friends & family wanting to buy a bottle, to now being a very well respected spirits brand.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Licencing and red-tape. There are very strict regulations in the UK for distilling.

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14
Sep

Shalom Lloyd, Naturally Tribal, Export Champion Interview

Shalom Lloyd

Shalom Lloyd, Managing Director

How did the idea for your business come about?
In 2014, I gave birth to a beautiful set of twins! One of my twins, Joshua, was covered in eczema from birth and I spent months combining lotions, creams, emollients, teas – you name it – to stop his ‘scratch until drawing blood’ dilemma. I tapped into my African heritage and started to mix raw, ingredients from Africa – the scientist in me took over, experimenting and testing. Using these natural ingredients and once I stumbled on the right formula, it miraculously only took three days for Joshua’s skin to become what it should have been at birth. Naturally Tribal Skincare was born out of this personal experience and experimenting. Through the combination of my African heritage mixed with an English twist, I solved my child’s skincare problem naturally WITHOUT CHEMICALS and felt like a ‘hero’ mum.

Today, we use Mother Nature’s gifts to create natural products, manufactured and tested in the UK with our ingredients ethically sourced, while supporting and empowering African women. We are supporting infrastructure to ensure quality and working conditions, particularly for the women of Essan, Niger State in Nigeria!

How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
In April 2017, The Naturally Tribal Skincare Ltd Research & logistics Coordinator, Zantie O’Connell was sent an email from Royal Mail’s ‘Click & Drop Support’ team which was titled ‘Become a CommonwealthFirst Export Champion with Royal Mail’. We have outstanding innovative products and a great story to tell plus the benefits we would gain as an SME such as mentoring, training, profiling and branding to help our company access the 52 Commonwealth countries was too good to miss. Seeing this as a programme which aligns with our vision for the company, the team agreed to move forward with our application and we are certainly glad that we did!

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