Growing your small business through exporting

Exporting is not for the faint-hearted when you are in small business, but it’s not unachievable either.

Unlike many other small-business owners, dog&boy was not by design. Owning my own business was never my passion or a life-long dream; on the contrary. My parents owned small businesses, and after seeing them struggle emotionally and financially for most of my childhood, I vowed never to do the same, yet, here we are – the ‘why’ for dog&boy is a story for another day!

From the outset, dog&boy was structured as a business which sounds fundamental, but in my experience speaking with many small-business owners, particularly in our industry, many are not. They are started with passion, as a side-hustle, to “see if it works”.

People love the concept of owning their own business but are not usually prepared for what it takes to make it work, let alone be successful, particularly in the current economic climate, and they are certainly not prepared for what is required to export.

Exporting was/is key to the longevity and sustainability of our business. Choosing not to take the traditional fashion industry path of bricks-and-mortar, has allowed us the flexibility, and more importantly resources, to support our overseas expansion to the US.

Exporting is often seen as the big win that will set the business going. Especially exporting to other large western markets such as the US – “They are western, we are a western business, it’ll be easy!”, said no successful business exporting ever.

Before we launched into the US market earlier this year, there was over 12-months of research and discussion before we were prepared to enter the market. One of the biggest challenges exporting to the US was pricing and FX. dog&boy is but a minnow in the highly competitive US market.

Whilst we differentiate ourselves with our brand story and product offering, as an international brand we had to provide fair market pricing without the objection of potential import tariffs and customs duties our goods would attract. We deliberately set pricing to include landed costs (DDP) to the US.

However, in this digital age, simply setting wholesale pricing to cover the import issue is not enough. MSRP – manufacturers suggested retail price (or RRP) – had to be reflected through our website also.

Inevitably, customers will see your product in an overseas stockist and search your website. Pricing on our website could not be seen to compete with the stockist’s pricing. Luckily, the digital age has also made it easier for small business to become international. There are some very clever app developers with geo-location solutions for price setting and product blocking.

There are generally no immediate big-wins in exporting. It is a slow, steady and strategic process that will get you there, and keep you there. Dipping your toe in the water with regard to exporting will not work. If you want your wholesalers/distributors/agents to trust you, you have to keep showing up and being able to deliver.

Entering an export market is akin to launching your business all over again. The upside is you’ve already “launched” once before in your domestic market, so you’ve already made most of those first-timer mistakes. We tested, tried and refined the brand in Australia first before launching into the US but built our processes to enable export when we were ready to do so.

But this is just the beginning. It will be a continuous process of improvement as we grow and gain traction in the US season after season, as it should be with any small business.

Sonya Michele, Founder, dog&boy