Top tips for small businesses wanting to crack the overseas market

Breaking into the overseas market has always been a dream of mine. Having started my organic skincare business dream in the fields of Provence, Australia always felt like a very small pond. Sure it was a great place to start but I wanted my products and brand to be known the world over. Asia, being our closest large export neighbour, was where I was to begin my export journey and eventually launch Clémence Organics internationally.

When trying to work out how to get my products into the Asian market, I had several recommendations to contact Austrade as they had divisions specifically designed for helping health and beauty brands. I found them extremely easy to deal with and, after attending several of their online webinars, learnt about an opportunity to join Austrade at an event in Hong Kong later that year. After a successful application, Clémence Organics, along with nine other Australian beauty brands, exhibited and presented to a select group of Asian distributors and buyers at an event in alignment with Cosmoprof Hong Kong in 2018.

Following the event we spent many months following up on our leads and having conversations with parties from several Asian countries. Some turned out not to be the right fit for us, whilst others seemed worthy of pursuing. With the likely partnerships, we took time to get to know them and discuss each other’s needs. It was very important that we found partnerships that reflected well on our values and held the same vision of our brand.

A Japan company showed the most promise for us, wanting to visit us in Australia and see how we did things here. We then returned the visit several weeks later, spending time in Tokyo visiting their offices and potential stockists. As far as we were concerned it was a match and so we signed on the dotted line.

The following months consisted of almost daily emails and many Skype sessions. There was quite a bit to work out including issues with packaging that the (fussy) Japanese consumer may not like, how to best sticker the products in Japanese, and how to best sell them to an already crowded market. Eventually we worked our way through all the

details, the first order was placed, and we had ourselves a deadline of 1 October 2019.

It took so much more work than I’d ever imagined to get that first order shipped, buta week after the courier had collected all 35 boxes our products were being unpacked in Tokyo and we were on a flight on our way to the launch of Clémence Organics Japan. We’re currently working on getting the second order out to Japan, and daresay it will go much smoother than last time. The lessons you learn!

If you’re keen to break into the international market, here are my top tips:

  • Contact Austrade and speak to a representative who specialises in helping businesses in your field. These guys have dealt with many businesses just like you and can offer valuable advice that will most likely save you time and money.
  • Follow up on all potential leads, even if you think they may be time wasters at first. Sometimes the language barrier makes it difficult for some parties to communicate and so they may not be expressing themselves the best that they can in your language.
  • Have patience. It takes time to develop international partnerships with some companies taking one-to-two years to sign off on a deal.
  • Investigate all possible export costs and factor these into your pricing. Many countries have licensing and fees associated with importing. Ensure you are on top of these and, if not, ask your Austrade representative for assistance.
  • If this is your first foray into exporting, before signing off on your distribution agreement, get it reviewed by an expert in international trade. You need to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.
  • Apply for an Export Market Development Grant (EDMG). Pursuing international markets does come at a cost. Thankfully the Australian government has grants which can help you recoup some of these costs.

Bridget Carmady, Founder, Clémence Organics

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