Breakthrough International: Mexico trade Mission 2014
Returning from Breakthrough International’s latest trade mission, two delegate business leaders describe the contacts they made, the markets they researched, and how the overall experience has provided solid ground for future overseas expansion
In March last year, a diverse group of UK entrepreneurs embarked on a Breakthrough International trade mission to Mexico. The week-long trip was designed to provide them with market knowledge, sales leads, advice and, of course, first-hand experience of the country, its culture and business landscape.
This was just the latest in a series of successful Breakthrough trade missions to help UK businesses achieve a secure foothold in overseas territories. Previous trade missions have targeted New York and Boston, as well as Brazil.
An untapped market
Delegate Glynn Pegler, founder and CEO of content marketing company Culture Group, was attracted to the trade mission by the potential of Mexico’s developing market. Glynn’s company creates digital strategies and campaigns for a host of clients including Virgin Media, Guinness and Comic Relief. His interest in Mexico originates from the country’s growing appetite for media content viewed on mobile devices. “It was a no-brainer to take the opportunity to explore the market further and it was great to go along and enjoy the expertise offered by Santander,” he says. “There’s a huge market to tap into and a great opportunity for foreign firms to capitalise on. Mexico is the gateway into North America and has more free-trade agreements than any other country in the world – more than 40 – which creates particular efficiencies for businesses wanting to trade with North America and the rest of the world.”
Rachel Nash, Head of Breakthrough Delivery and Operations at Santander, was part of the team who organised and structured the trade mission. She agrees that Mexico is an excellent prospective destination for many UK firms. “We wanted to create a programme of events and meetings that optimised delegates’ time spent in Mexico,” she says. “Each business had an experience that was tailored to them, but in general the week was designed to be useful, productive and profitable. Each business went on a number of excursions, including information-gathering trips, meetings with potential suppliers, partners and sales leads. There was also time to network, to learn from each other and we hosted an evening at the British Ambassador’s residence.”
Reinforcing trade links
For Glynn, whose business has been researching the Mexican economy for some time, the trade mission represented an opportunity to establish new relationships with a view to setting up a branch of his business in Latin America. According to his research, Mexico is a major investor in creative services and will continue to spend money in this sector for the foreseeable future. Culture Group has yet to set up directly overseas and Glynn thinks Mexico could be the best place to start. “We have different collaboration agreements with agencies in different countries, but this is the first time we’ve considered providing our UK services to an overseas market,” he says.
“We have established a base in Mexico and this trip allowed us to develop different sales leads,” he adds. “It allowed us to reinforce links made at previous international conferences and to build a sales pipeline replicating the model we created in the UK.”
A group effort
Glynn points out that Santander’s staff in Mexico were “excellent” at setting up a “fantastic array” of relevant meetings with blue-chip companies, brands and other prospective clients. Just weeks after returning from the trade mission, his business has received several new contract offers. “We have already had follow-ups from people who we met in client meetings,” he says. “They now want us to develop services, so we’re really pleased with the outcome. We had meetings with education providers in different parts of Mexico and they came back to us on a potential programme that spans the country. That will involve the creation of lots of different campaigns and content.”
“It was a no-brainer to take the opportunity to explore the market further and it was great to go along and enjoy the expertise offered by Santander.” Glynn Pegler, Culture Group
Despite the commercial leads established on the trip, Glynn says the chance to meet other UK business leaders with an interest in Mexico and sharing useful information and advice with them was one of the best aspects of the trip. It’s a view shared by Rosie Stringer, Head of International Development for premium women’s retailer Phase Eight, which has 300 stores and concessions in the UK. Since a course of rapid international expansion started 18 months ago, her company now has a presence in countries as diverse as Switzerland, Dubai and Australia.
“Off the back of our success in other countries we wanted to explore the opportunities in Mexico and see if we could eventually use this as a springboard into the US,” she says, describing the motivation behind Phase Eight’s involvement in the trade mission. On travelling with other UK entrepreneurs, she adds: “Being part of a group going out to Mexico was really useful because we could all learn from each other and we fed off each other’s experiences and the research we had done.”
The importance of contacts
Rosie’s trip also ended in commercial success, with interest from both major shopping centre businesses in Mexico City to host Phase Eight shops. She says this would have been much harder without the support of Santander. “The key thing when you enter a new country is to have the contacts,” she says. “We were going as part of a group including Santander people who spoke the language and knew the right people. The sponsorship of Santander was an attractive part of the deal too. It really made everything so much easier for us. As a result we are now definitely planning to open in Mexico, to open concessions in department stores first and then in either of the two department stores I had talks with; both are keen to work with us and I think we’ll do something in Spring/Summer 2015.”
These are just two examples among the many success stories coming out of the Mexico trade mission, as well as the previous trips to the US and Brazil. Phase Eight and Culture Group are now in a strong position to profit from the booming Mexican economy and both Glyn and Rosie say this would have been much harder without support from the Breakthrough trade mission.