Case study:

Seapa

 

We are Seapa

We manufacture and sell plastic injection-moulded oyster growing equipment and systems. Our head office is in Edwardstown, South Australia, and we have offices in France, Japan and the US. We employ 25 people in Australia and overseas, including through our parent company Garon Plastics.

We started exporting in 2000

We started exporting in response to requests from overseas customers. Exporting also allowed us to offset risk by diversifying our markets, as well as grow our business. Today, exports comprise 60 per cent of Seapa’s business.

The hardest thing about starting to export was overcoming the tyranny of distance

Giving customers the confidence in our products and offering support from so far away was challenging. We also had to resolve time zone and cultural issues. Connecting to the right people overseas and getting the right advice was difficult but critical in helping us address these challenges.

We have used government financial assistance to grow relationships

We have received many government grants, including EMDG, Commercial Ready grant, Innovation Grant, R&D tax incentive and Export Partnership grant. We’ve used these grants to travel overseas and visit customers face-to-face to develop relationships, explain how our products work and share our farming knowledge.

EMDG has been fantastic – that assistance has been fundamental in our thinking when looking to export and gave us the confidence to take the risk. The Commercial Ready grant went towards developing a new product range. The Export Partnership Grant and Innovation Grant have also been useful in helping us grow our business.

When we started exporting, we wish we had used our own people instead of agents

We found it challenging to work with agents and distributors as it was hard for them to understand how our products worked. As sales increased, they also wanted higher commissions, robbing us of profits. What worked for us was setting up our own people and offices. This enabled us to cut out the middleman and get unfiltered feedback so we could understand specific market needs and then develop better products for those markets.

We also had to adapt the product sold in Australia for overseas markets as one size does not fit all. Another major issue was the rise and fall of the Australian dollar. At the height of the mining boom when the dollar topped $1.09 to the US dollar, it made things extremely difficult and this was out of our control.

Exporting has enabled our business to expand locally and globally

Exporting has given us the means to increase revenue and profitability, employ and offer employees exciting opportunities, open overseas offices and investigate new products. Our local profile was boosted after we won the 2018 Australian Exporter of the Year Award.

The three things we would tell first-time exporters are:

  • Validate your product. Check that your products are relevant in the markets you wish to enter.
  • Build strong, trustworthy relationships with your customers.
  • Don’t be in a rush to grow. Invest small to start and apply what you’ve learnt along the way.