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Women in Export case studies

Sylvan Australia Pty LtdSylvan Australia Pty Ltd

Summary

Marion Lawson made a fortuitous career move switching from mushroom farmer and successful businesswomen to General Manager of Sylvan Australia Pty Ltd three years ago. The company produces spawn the equivalent of mushroom seed. In Australia, mushroom growers sew the spawn into wheat straw-based nutrient rich substrate. In Korea and other Asian countries it’s sewn into a substrate that utilises local material such as rice straw. Sylvan Australia compliments its spawn offering with a range of related products and services designed to meet the needs of the mushroom grower. Sylvan Australia is a subsidiary of Sylvan Inc. an American company and global leader in fungal technology. The Australian company functions as a joint venture operation with a group of 11 Australian mushroom growers the majority shareholders. Ms Lawson was instrumental in securing contracts with Korea.

Most defining moment

Securing the Korean market. It was a challenge and took us a little while to find the right partners whom had solid business to business and business to government skills. We are now confident about our long-term growth in Korea and are well placed to use our base in Korea as a springboard into other Asian countries. Moreover, we were the first foreign company to be granted a permit to import mushroom seed under Korean Seed Law. In due course it is our intention and that of our Korean partners to build a production facility there.

Biggest challenge

Continuing to grow our business. Both business and mushroom industries are maturing. Our biggest challenge is to develop new products utilising our core competencies. We are constantly surveying the environment for new growth industries and new markets. Also challenging is maintaining our market share (70 per cent in Australia). We must always remain relevant to our customers providing extraordinary service and products that continue to outperform our competitors.

Advice for exporters

Study the market – work from the market back. Make sure you have a good product/ market fit. Ensure that your distributors understand your product and can provide technical support for your product. This is especially important in the agriculture sector. Understand the supply chain in the countries you’re exporting to. Especially important is an understanding of the cultural differences whether it is business culture or social culture. Be patient. Use Austrade’s services. In our case their support has been invaluable; the Seoul office was instrumental in securing business in Korea. It has been a good partnership, and continues to be so.

Advice on starting up a new company

 Make sure you have a product and not just a great idea, understand your customers’ needs and provide a product that fits those needs. Be flexible and open-minded, but be focussed on the goal. Be prepared to rethink your strategy, most times getting from A to B is not a straight line, it can be very circuitous and its amazing what you pick up and learn along the way. Watch the cash flow and don’t start undercapitalised.

What to be careful of when exporting

Communicate clearly terms of trade. Ensure that all agreements and understandings are well documented. Bring yourself up to speed on tax and legal implications relating to trade between your home country and the country your exporting to. Make sure you comply with all regulatory rules and laws in the export country – they may not be obvious at first.

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Ecobiotics LimitedEcobiotics Limited

Summary

Regional Queensland-based biodiscovery company EcoBiotics Limited has discovered new chemicals with healing properties derived from local tropical rainforest plants. These new chemicals have the potential for development as new anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic treatments. EcoBiotics Managing Director, Dr Victoria Gordon said the company is currently undertaking patenting of their new chemicals and is on the verge of signing their first lucrative deal with a US company. Dr Gordon established EcoBiotics three years ago after she left the CSIRO where she worked as a scientist in chemical ecology. The company now has seven staff.  She decided to establish a regionally based biotechnology company after identifying an amazing resource in Queensland’s tropical rainforest, which holds enormous potential for commercial success.

Most defining moment

Starting EcoBiotics. Launching myself into the unknown of the business world from the safe haven of research was a big step to take. I’ve never looked back.

Biggest challenge

Convincing scientific colleagues and the business community that serious biotechnology research and development of an international standard can  be performed by a regionally based company.  Fortunately, our successes are now proving this.

Advice for exporters

Thoroughly research your market and customers. Ensure that you have a sound understand of the cultural and legal specifics of your focus country(s) – there are many different ways to do business! Investigate the capabilities of specialist organisations such as Austrade – they have a lot to offer.

Advice on starting up a new company

A great product or business idea has no chance of success unless you build a strong and sustainable business structure around it. If you have no business experience, find someone who does. There are currently many government and private groups who specialise in the field of business start-ups who are very willing to share their knowledge and experience.  Also, talk to others in your field. Much can be gained from, and many pitfalls avoided by listening to others ‘war stories’. Also, don’t give up. Tenacity is an entrepreneurs best asset!

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Seven DimensionsSeven Dimensions

Summary

It started with a touch of comedy and developed into a seriously successful business for Melbourne-based Seven Dimensions, which produces video training packages for Australia and overseas. Seven Dimensions’ Managing Director, Eve Ash started the video production company in 1979, ventured into exports two years later and now exports account for 80 per cent of the training video business.

Ms Ash is one of the world’s most experienced and successful producers of training media. She has produced over 500 titles, won 130 awards for creativity and excellence, and sells in 40 countries, through a worldwide network of 80 distributors.

Most defining moment

Meeting the actor and comedian John Cleese before starting the company. Being able to voice your vision to somebody powerful and well respected is great because you get to hear how it sounds to others and the idea becomes possible. Another defining moment was winning the national Westpac Business Owner Award at the Telstra Businesswomen’s Awards.

Biggest challenge

The biggest challenge has been cash flow. Eve and partner Peter Quarry, invest in their own productions, preferring not to take investment. Another challenge is cracking overseas markets with best sellers. The latest program, Boomerang, is a best seller internationally and has won three top awards in America.

Advice for exporters

Eve’s advice is to get out there and say what you want, she says don’t just think you want something - use communication tools such as the telephone and email to let people know what you want to achieve. Eve suggests Australians must learn to present themselves succinctly and with passion. You need the presentation skills to be able to pick up the phone and be interesting within a sentence with somebody from another country. If you waffle on and don’t present yourself in a powerful way, you might not succeed.

Advice on starting up a new company

If you want to start a company, you need a clear vision of what you want to do. It is a good idea to find people who are in business to listen to your ideas and they may tear your ideas apart, but it will help. If you can sit down with somebody who’s been in business in a similar situation and talk to them it can help bring your ideas to life.

What to be careful of when exporting

It is very important to find out more about the people you may do business with. Be careful not to get swept away with the moment. Consider what the company has done in the past. Check credentials - it is prudent to put agreements in writing, even pre-contract. Send an email that outlines in dot points what you have agreed on.

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Aromababy Natural SkincareAromababy Natural Skincare

Summary

The creator of Australia's first therapeutic, natural skincare product range for babies, is now reaping the rewards, having cracked one of the most lucrative, yet difficult export markets in the world, Korea. Catherine Arfi is founder and proprietor of Aromababy Natural Skincare, part of the baby workshop concept of all-Australian baby goods. After leaving school at 14, this young entrepreneur forged a successful writing career as a beauty editor for a popular Australian magazine. She went on to use her creative skills, developing body care products and accessories for major Australian fashion retailers for several years, before being retrenched during her first pregnancy due to a forthcoming company closure.

Aromababy now offers 24 products for babies and mums-to-be and unlike most other baby product suppliers, Mrs Arfi chooses to utilise a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) licensed premises for manufacturing, resulting in positive feedback from hospital staff  in several countries.

Mrs Arfi said her success in selling her products in Australia led to her most lucrative contract with a Korean distributor, further expanding her presence in the Asian market. The original company that approached Mrs Arfi in relation to Korean distribution knew this was a good opportunity when they met in her Melbourne office, after having spent much time researching Australian brands available. They now employ 20 staff to look after the Aromababy brand alone.  Aromababy products are now sold to every major pharmacy, department store and boutique, and have also been made available through the midwifery system within Korea.

Most defining moment

Being approached by three businessmen two years ago, who caught a flight from Seoul to meet me and would not leave Australia without a signed contract, resulting in a deal for Aromababy for distribution in Korea, currently our largest export market.

Biggest challenge

Having developed one of the first ranges of its kind in the world was a huge challenge. Using natural ingredients in favour of less expensive, synthetic or chemical ones, posed a pricing problem between existing product and Aromababy at a retail level. Also, as a result of penetrating an untapped market, a number of copycat producers surfaced (and still do) who use information from our web and brochures to produce their own material. The resulting legal actions have taken up a lot of energy and finances.

Advice for exporters

Do your homework in relation to trademark and common law rights as we did. Access the network of information available, particularly if you have a unique Australian product – made and owned, for example Austrade has so much to offer.  Apply for export assistance grants. Be passionate, believe in yourself and never give up. 

Advice on starting up a new company

Make sure you have an innovative idea. If someone’s already doing it, choose a different way of providing that product or service, this can be your angle.

What to be careful of when exporting

Take care to protect yourself from being infringed upon. If you don’t have trademarks and patents covered in the region you plan on exporting to, best to wait. I have spent a small fortune registering trademarks and domain names in different countries enabling us to trade in USA when another large company had a similar name. The same company launched their product here several years ago and were forced to relabel their product. You must check out legalities first and earmark finances accordingly if you plan to be around for the long-haul.

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Ballantyne FoodsBallantyne Foods Pty Ltd

Summary

Julie Hanlon has worked for Ballantyne Foods for 10 years as their export manager. She travels the world to increase market share for four months of the year. A major achievement for Julie has been increasing the company’s exports to Japan, which is now their biggest market.

Most defining moment

When Julie joined the company 10 years ago Japan was a small export market for the company, she has worked hard to make it Ballayntye’s biggest export market.

Biggest challenge

They had to be flexible with their dairy products and continue supply during difficult times such as droughts. They adapted products and made private labels and emergency orders for people. They also tailor-make products and adjust flavours for certain products to suit local requirements.

Advice for exporters

You’ve got to remember that every country is very different to other countries, to respect their needs and make sure you get the product right. Building a relationship with clients is also very important. Visit the markets to ensure the growth of the relationship and also to get a real feel for the market. It is also important to ensure you have enough margin on the product to make it worthwhile – don’t compromise too much just to get a sale.

Advice on starting up a new company

Have a good business plan and contact organisations like Austrade who offer export advice and assistance.

What to be careful of when exporting

Make sure you get paid. Ballantyne insures every export deal through the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC). The only time they don’t use EFIC is when they are prepaid for products.

(Editor's note: Since 30 September 2003 EFIC no longer provide short term export credit insurance.)

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Lydia Jordane InternationalLydia Jordane International

Summary

Lydia Jordane created her own hair removal wax when she was 17, improved on her formula when she became a beauty therapist in 1976 at the age of 26, and launched her own LYCON brand in 1978.  Now the wax is used in exclusive beauty salons and spas around Australia and overseas as well as retailed through pharmacies and department stores.

In 1998, Ms Jordane took her success story one step further with the introduction of LYDIA JORDANE skincare after five years of intensive research and development, in conjunction with one of Australia’s most respected cosmetic chemists with over 40 years experience. Lydia Jordane - Lycon Cosmetics now has around 100 distributors/wholesalers who sell the wax, while they market the skincare range themselves.

Displaying initiative and determination, Ms Jordane achieved her first export success in 1981 when following up on a lead, she approached an exclusive New York salon called Bliss World to make an appointment with the owner, Marcia Kilgore. Armed with a small pot of her leg wax, Ms Jordane arrived at the salon only to be told Ms Kilgore was not available. Undeterred, and wanting to demonstrate how good her product was, she asked if the cleaner wanted to try it. The cleaner was so impressed, as it was pain free and easy to apply, that it prompted staff members to gather around. Convinced it was an exceptional product they ensured Ms Jordane got an appointment with Ms Kilgore, who upon sampling the product, signed her up and became her distributor. A few years later Bliss World went into a joint venture with Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH) to become a much larger enterprise.

Export sales have grown since 1981 through exhibiting at trade shows, training and sourcing distributors in other overseas markets.  Currently, Ms Jordane exports to 18 countries.

Most defining moment

Releasing the skincare range five years ago in a very competitive market.  Despite the perception that French skincare products are the best, the range received very positive feedback. People who use the range say their skin has never been better.  The product is selling well in the Asian market, largely helped because they consider Australia a clean and wonderful place coupled with the beautiful textures of LYDIA JORDANE and the fast and easily achieved results.

Biggest challenge

The biggest challenge was to succeed in achieving steady sales of the skincare range despite fierce competition.

Advice for exporters

Be very careful whom you appoint as your agent because you can get a lot of false starts. Don’t rush, really check them out, define and stipulate what they have to do for you. Keep on trying and don’t be discouraged when sales don’t happen straight away. It’s important to develop relationships, especially in Asia. If you feel reluctant about a person or potential client, don’t deal with them.

Advice on starting up a new company

Make sure you have a really good product and work out what the best market for it is.  Ask for export advice through organisations such as Austrade and apply for grants which provide funding assistance for marketing activities related to export development such as Austrade’s Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) scheme.

What to be careful of when exporting

Be careful with payments. You need to trust people, however, try to get half payment before an order goes out – also don’t keep on sending stock unless your client is up-to-date with their payments.

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Narek Gallery

Narek Gallery

Summary

Fine art gallery representing decorative arts and crafts/3D artists working in exhibition quality ceramics, woodwork, textiles and glass.

Most defining moment

Taking the first plunge - deciding to risk personal funds to export. My first US art fair was in Chicago in 1991. As this was my first time and I had only visited the country very briefly beforehand, I didn’t really know what it was all about. This was very scary when the expenses – for the booth space, freight, visiting and accommodation costs – were so high. This was a big jump for me.

Biggest challenge

Knowing trends before they happen. With my experience in the industry, I knew what was happening in Australia that could do with some exposure overseas, but you also have to gauge the clients’ response from the purchasing point of view and know what they might be interested in.

Advice for other exporters

Do your groundwork. You have to know what people want and also know your product very well. I take work that appeals to me personally overseas as I believe in it personally and have confidence in the people making it.

What to be careful of when exporting

That the infrastructure of the companies you are working with or selling to is professional. If you put your own money into the business you will make sure that you do the right research before making a visit to avoid unforeseen costs. We found that the research done for our first visit was missing a few important points. We got hit with information when we were over there, eg. that American collectors could demand a 10 per cent discount on a work.

If you have received assistance from Austrade, how has it helped your company?

Austrade’s financial help can take the sharpest edge off that enormous risk, but there are still plenty of edges!

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Birkdale NurseryBirkdale Nursery

Summary

Birkdale Nursery has an international reputation for exporting a diverse range of plants from seedlings to large 10 metre mature trees and palms. Barbara McGeoch's clients have included the Sultan of Brunei, the Emperor of Japan, and a number of upmarket commercial and resort developments and theme parks. Birkdale Nursery has incorporated Wollemi Pine International Pty Ltd to market, both domestically and internationally, the Wollemi Pine on behalf of NSW Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney.

Most defining moment

When, in 2002, I received the prestigious award for the Entrepreneur of the Year, awarded by the Femmes Chefs d’Enterprises Mondials (FCEM) at their International Congress in St. Petersburg. The Australian affiliate is Women Chiefs of Enterprises International (WCEI) and this is the first time that the award has come to Australia and the southern hemisphere. The feedback that I received was that the reason for being chosen for this award was the combination of exporting, joint venturing with government and working on a major project with a strong conservation message.

Biggest challenge

Researching and developing international markets for the Wollemi Pine - a unique plant that was previously thought to be extinct. The strict security surrounding the plant until its commercial release in 2005/06 means potential international buyers have to take a ‘leap of faith’ in providing information and committing to a product that they have only seen on film or in photographs.

Advice for other exporters

Make sure that you can be competitive through gathering market intelligence and accurate pricing, including the cost of logistics. Ensure that Directors/owners or high level personnel regularly visit target markets. Build strong relationships with your clients. This is particularly important in Asian markets. Provide high quality products suited to the market, backed up with excellent service. More than meet your customers’ expectations. Take on challenges that you know are going to stretch you and don’t put limits on yourself. Focus on the positives and look for solutions to the challenges (of which there are many in the international arena).

Advice for anyone considering developing export markets

Ensure you have a sound domestic base that can support substantial financial and human resource commitments, backed up with sound strategic planning and plenty of enthusiasm for long-term international business development.

What to be careful of when exporting

Be flexible - watch for any changes in the economic climate of your target markets, currency fluctuations and increases in freight rates, which could affect your competitiveness. Be ready to respond quickly - even changing to other markets if necessary.

If you have received assistance from Austrade, how has it helped your company?

We have participated in many Austrade sponsored trade fairs in Asia and Europe through which we were able to assess interest in our products and develop valuable business contacts.

Also, we commissioned Austrade to undertake market research in the Middle East and Japan for specific projects. This research not only provided us with valuable background information but also resulted in us meeting new clients for future business.

Over the past seven years, we have also been able to access funding for market research and promotion of our products through the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG). This has certainly been of substantial benefit in reducing the cost of securing valuable new international business.

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Phoenix English Language AcademyPhoenix English Language Academy

Summary

Phoenix English Language Academy, run by Director Robynne Walsh, has been operating for 14 years and is one of Australia’s most successful private sector education institutes offering full fee courses for overseas students.

Most defining moment

Deciding to expand into a new sector (vocational education), open a second campus in Fremantle, and enter into a partnership with The University of Notre Dame all in the same year!

Biggest challenge

Developing an e-marketing approach to doing business and at the same time not alienating our valued overseas representatives who offer the more traditional face-to-face service for our clients.

Advice for other exporters

Research your industry well. Spread yourself across lots of markets, and don’t be tempted to put all your resources into the cash-rich short term markets to the detriment of having a balanced portfolio of overseas markets.

Advice for anyone starting up a new company

Have a well thought out business plan. Know your products intimately, your markets and their cultural needs, your competitors - and watch what they're doing. Have plenty of cash behind you to sustain you in your first few years so you don’t need to rely on short-term cash flow injections. Have a fire in your belly and a passion for your product. Act with integrity at all times. Be prepared not to have a lot of time for yourself!

What to be careful of when exporting

Be careful of going down the road of paying high commissions for short-term gain. Make sure that you keep investing time and money into markets that are successful and don’t ever become complacent with the successful markets.

If you have received assistance from Austrade, how has it helped your company?

Austrade helped us showcase Western Australia more than we could do as one exporter. They also helped us to network and be aware of some market opportunities.

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Auto BakeAuto Bake

Summary

Auto Bake designs and manufactures industrial baking systems in Australia and fully assembles them before they are broken down into components and exported overseas where they are reassembled on the customer’s site. The systems incorporate Auto-Bake unique Serpentine technology and are controlled by hi-tech software and produce tens of thousands of cakes, breads or cookies each hour.

Most defining moment

Attending a tradeshow in the USA on September 11. USA is Auto Bake's biggest market and September 11 had a big impact on normal business.

Biggest challenge

Own expectations, as we are always trying to better our last effort. Auto Bake is always re-engineering and re-inventing concepts and processes and expanding into new fields.

Advice for exporters

Good research is paramount. Undertake your secondary research before you travel. Do your visits, but prioritise your markets in order to not be stretched. You have to think in longer time horizons. In exporting you don’t always get a quick result. It’s a long-term investment that you have to be comfortable with, and this plan has to resonate with your corporate structure too.

Advice on starting up a new company

Again, you have to research what you are doing to see if what you think holds true. You might think you have a unique product, but you have to do research sufficiently to find out if it is. One technique you can use is to attend key marketing and tradeshow events. Once you have tested the concept and refine what you have to offer you can put good strong numbers around in a potential market. It’s important to support the creative ideas with good analytical information.

What to be careful of when exporting

You have to be careful not to spread yourself too thin. Whether you are growing a business in a country and thinking of exporting or already up and running with exporting, you have to prioritise your markets. You might think the world is your oyster, but you can’t always immediately export to a lot of markets. You have to ensure that the quality doesn’t deteriorate because you are increasing the quantity.

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Cambinata YabbiesCambinata Yabbies

Summary

The Nenke family has developed a significant diversified export market by buying and marketing yabbies. The yabbies come from over 500 farmers in Western Australia, 90 per cent of which are women. Cambinata Yabbies export over 60 per cent of live produce overseas, mainly to restaurants. As well as the already established market for yabbies, the company has produced a couple of gourmet products including a selection of flavoured yabbies in jars.

The development of the product has been helped through financial assistance from the Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) scheme. Austrade helped Cambinata initially break into markets in America. They used Austrade’s website by placing a free listing on the Australian Suppliers Database.

Mrs Nenke has previously been honoured by winning Western Australia's RIRDC, Rural Women of the Year Award.

Most defining moment

In 1999 they tripled their exports by putting in state of the art infrastructure, technology from Queensland, which helped increased their capacity.

Biggest challenge

Drought – in 1995/96 they nearly lost all of their export business, however, during the current drought they have actually built exports. They believe their current growth has come from learning by experience and communicating with clients.

Advice for exporters

Be passionate and work hard. Mrs Nenke said if you talk to anybody who has succeeded it is because of the extra time they put into establishing their business. Know your product; build relationships with everybody from suppliers, to markets, to chefs, to government; and value people.

Advice on starting up a new company

Know your product and believe in it. You’ll never make it a success if you’re not passionate about your product. You see people start obscure businesses that you think will not work but they succeed because they are passionate about their products/services. Watch your accounts because it is too easy to miss a payment that is due. Have the right people doing the right jobs.

What to be careful of when exporting

Being careful to make sure you get paid. Use telegraphic transfers in advance if possible using the government organisation EFIC for assistance. Visit the market. You really need to see your client’s office, infrastructure and have a look at their history. Talk to people like Austrade. Go to trade shows, you can meet potential clients and see what other people are doing. Look at product differentiation; why is your Australian product better than what is already available in America? Find out what the market wants.

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The Australian Chestnut CompanyThe Australian Chestnut Company

Summary

The Australian Chestnut Company (ACC) supplies fresh and processed chestnuts -predominantly to Japan where the chestnut market is worth $4 billion per annum. The export potential for a peeled frozen chestnut product is substantial with demand for processed chestnuts increasing in Japan every year.

Jane Casey said although she and her husband Brian, established the business near Bright in Victoria's northeast in 1986, it took them until 1995 to be export ready.

Most defining moment

Meeting a distributor in Tokyo introduced by Austrade.

Biggest challenge

Trying to cope with the increase in demand and not being able to meet it. ACC's biggest problem with development of product is financial cash flow. Trying to adequately fund our continued expansion without over-extending ourselves.

Advice for exporters

Before entering a market do as much desktop research yourself before asking for help. People will be more inclined to assist you if they know you're serious and committed. Once you understand the market and know which niche you can fill, then persevere. You’ve got to keep going and keep believing that you will succeed. Export is expensive and you must visit the markets regularly so budget for this.

Advice on starting up a new company

The important thing when starting up a new company is to take it slowly and keep overheads low. For example, it’s really not necessary to have business stationery designed and printed. What’s more important is that you reply to correspondence promptly and talk to people; ensure there is good customer service.

Plan each business cycle as much as you can, but remain open to new opportunities as they present themselves. If possible, have regular progress meetings to check how the business is going. Build strong relationships with all businesses and people along your supply chain.

What to be careful of when exporting

Be careful of paying expensive consultants who claim they can do great things for you. Usually they can’t and most have never exported anything themselves. Learn how to export yourself. Austrade is good for providing sound advice.

Try to find a mentor – someone who is actually exporting and is prepared to give you some practical advice. When exporting, ensure that you have security of payment. This does not always mean a Letter of Credit, but you must ensure payment is received prior to your product being released to the importer.

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Judith White Enterprises

Judith White Enterprises

Summary

Mrs White is one of the world’s leading authorities in aromatherapy and manufactures her own products. She has eight best selling books sold around the world.

Judith White Aromatherapy has found success in exporting. They achieved a major breakthrough in exports to the United Kingdom where her organic pure essential aromatherapy oils is primarily used by trained beauty therapists. Austrade helped them find a distributor who supplies the professional aromatherapy system to beauty salons throughout the UK. Beauty therapists throughout Asia and New Zealand now also use the products.

Most defining moment

Securing a distributor in the UK through Austrade.

Biggest challenge

Working on such a grand plan with such a lean team.

Advice for exporters

Research your markets well. Secure strong distributors for your target area, and avoid choosing distributors who utilise sub distributors (because of the challenge this poses on margins).

Advice on starting up a new company

Do all the work in the beginning yourself. Know every aspect of your business. Be prepared for the long haul. Success does not happen overnight and when the going gets tough, stick with it. Also be prepared for the time demands of running your own business.

What to be careful of when exporting

Pricing of the product. Be certain of margins. Lock your suppliers into fixed prices for fixed terms. Know the rules and regulations for each country and the values and belief systems of each area. Make sure you know your distributors and how they service their market and be sure it is in line with the direction you want to take.

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Narrowcasters Pty Ltd

Narrowcasters

Summary

Coming from a background in commerce, it was an interest in the arts that inspired Lady Penelope Street to start her Sydney-based company Narrowcasters Pty Ltd 14 years ago. The company specialises in providing audio guide services in museums, observatories, wildlife parks, zoos, aquariums, caves and any visitor place where people need information.

Narrowcasters currently export audio guide systems to New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and India. Lady Penelope Street said the master script is always written in English and then translated into various languages depending on whether domestic or foreign visitors heavily visit a place. The audio guides are available in five languages at the National Gallery of Australia and five at Parliament House.

Narrowcasters comprises of four service components they include production, technology, operations and management.

Most defining moment

Because Narrowcasters exports a service, and not a product, it took us quite some time before some Asian markets would acknowledge the value of what we were offering. When acceptance of payment for services, such as ours, became more widespread, we took advantage of these changing cultural attitudes. This has been happening gradually over the last four to five years.

Biggest challenge

Like many small businesses, we find that managing growth is a constant challenge. There is always the temptation to jump ahead when confronted with opportunities you think may not come again. In fact the opportunities are always there, so you must be sure that you take one step at a time and don’t collapse from indigestion along the way.

Advice for exporters

Do your homework thoroughly, and be prepared for setbacks. If you are confident about your product or service, then keep persevering. In our business we learn something new every day, so don’t be put off by an idea or initiative which may have proved unsatisfactory in your home market. Often, these ideas find fertile ground and greater acceptance outside one’s own frame of reference and in different cultural conditions.

Advice on starting up a new company

Be prepared to put in the hard yards, and ask yourself the question, "where do you want to be in 10 years time?" If you think you will achieve your goals within three to five years, then you may be right, but be prepared to treble the amount of time you will invest in the business.

What to be careful of when exporting

Knowledge of the market. By this I don’t just mean competition. Understanding cultural differences is crucial when exporting to Asia. I know this sounds like a cliché, but it can’t be overestimated. Understanding the political climate in which you are working is also very important, because it often has a direct financial affect on imports/exports.

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Case studies

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