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Great Dunmow: UKTI helps YUUworld realise bags of potential

06:00 12 January 2014

Gill Hayward and Kellie Forbes of YUUworld, based in Great Dunmow.

Gill Hayward and Kellie Forbes of YUUworld, based in Great Dunmow.

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Two Essex businesswomen are gearing up for export success as international demand grows for their innovative range of children’s products.

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YUUworld, set up in 2010 by Gill Hayward and Kellie Forbes from Great Dunmow, produces a range of fun and functional ergonomic backpacks for children.

Designed to support growing spines, the award-winning bags are packed with pockets and compartments, and equipped with a fold-down desk and fun pack.

The YUU range, which is sold exclusively online, also includes travel accessories such as lunchboxes and drinks bottles, and the company aims to become the one stop shop for children when they are out and about.

“We decided from the start that we wanted to achieve global recognition for our products, as they have universal appeal and we didn’t want to be limited to the UK market,” said Gill.

“We were making headway ourselves with expansion into the Australian market, using our own contacts, when we heard from other successful companies about how working with UKTI had benefitted their businesses. We decided that we would be foolish not to approach UKTI, to find out how they might be able to help YUUworld.”

In October 2012 Kellie and Gill visited a UK Trade & Invesment (UKTI) Explore Export event, held at Duxford.

“Explore Export is a unique opportunity for local businesses to have one-to-one meetings with overseas commercial specialists and experienced UKTI trade advisers, with the aim of helping them to enter new markets with confidence,” says UKTI trade Adviser Stephen Banks.

“The contacts we made on the day were invaluable,” added Kellie. “In particular, a UKTI representative from the Melbourne office explained to us how taxation and employment laws in Australia differ from those in the UK; he subsequently went on to link us to a lawyer and accountant in Australia.”

Kellie and Gill then also attended one of UKTI’s two-day Passport to Export workshops.

“When you are operating on an international level there are numerous fundamental and practical things that you need to know about specific countries,” said Kellie. “The workshop helped us to get to grips with some of the nitty-gritty issues involved in distribution and pricing, with greater speed and efficiency than if we had worked alone.”

Gill agreed, adding: “The two day workshop really made the world of difference to our international strategy. We learnt so much.”

The company then commissioned an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) report and an Export Communications Review (ECR) − both subsidised by UKTI − with a view to learning more about Scandinavia as a viable target market.

“The OMIS report and ECR provided us with objective and crucial advice on market selection, competitors, language and cultural issues, all of which significantly cut down the hours we needed to spend ourselves on research,” said Kellie.

“We had originally planned to expand into Scandinavia in 2014, but we felt so confident and ready as a result of all the information we’d received that we moved the expansion forward to this year.”

“The Passport to Export programme enabled Kellie and Gill to move forward quickly,” said Stephen Banks.“The workshop taught them what they needed to know about operating in overseas markets and the market research that they commissioned from UKTI supported them in making specific decisions, for example the pros and cons of various methods of packaging and shipment, and how to go about finding a fulfilment house in Australia.”

The ECR also included a review of the company’s website. “The review helped to identify some important design and content changes that would enable the website to work harder for the company overseas – which is vital when you’re an online business trying to appeal to a global marketplace,” Stephen added.

YUUworld also took advantage of £1,000 of UKTI-matched funding towards travel costs for crucial research trips out to Malmo and Copenhagen.

Since first getting in touch with UKTI in 2012 the company has made rapid progress overseas, launching in Australia in August with plans to trade in Scandinavia from November. Betwee 15% and 20% of their business is now carried out in Australia and their three-year plan includes expansion into Germany, France and North American. “Our aim is for 50% of total sales to come from overseas,” says Gill. “UKTI is there to provide a route to getting the answers you need.

“Our Trade Adviser, Stephen, has been amazing. His background is very similar to ours, which means that he is hugely empathetic to any problems we have faced along the way. If he doesn’t know the answer to a question he will immediately put us in touch with someone who does. It’s all about having the right connections and UKTI’s network of contacts is astounding!”

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