If I can make it there...

Santander’s Breakthrough International Programme recently took a group of female entrepreneurs on a trade mission to New York and Boston, allowing them to learn about opportunities for exporting and facilitate connections with US businesses. Jennifer Taylor, from Santander Corporate Banking, who coordinated the trip, explains why it was such a huge success for all of the businesses involved.

The core objective of Breakthrough International is to help fast-growth organisations take advantage of the vast international opportunity. Following the success of the Breakthrough trade mission to Brazil last year, the most recent trip saw eleven UK businesswomen visiting Boston and New York to learn about the market and meet new trade partners.

"The businesses, all female owned or managed, were from a wide range of sectors and ranged in size from start-ups to more established companies. The programme of the mission was tailored to balance a high level of learning about exporting, along with real opportunities to make valuable contacts and do business", says Jennifer.

“We ran two fantastic group sessions, the first of which was held at the British Embassy in Boston, where we received a number of presentations on how to do business in the US. Speakers included the British Consulate General from Boston and the CEO of Hotel Chocolat, a UK business that has successfully expanded into the US. The second group session took place at Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York, where speakers included Ana Botín, CEO of Santander UK and Tamara Mellon, co-founder of Jimmy Choo.

"The core function of the trade mission was about giving the businesses the opportunity to take part in business meetings with potential trade partners. There was ample opportunity to learn about how to access this marketplace, including meetings with intellectual property lawyers, marketing specialists and logistical support companies. However, most importantly, we gave them the chance to pitch their product directly to distributors and potential buyers, resulting in several commercial successes, including one of our companies, Bag it and Bin it, actually taking and fulfilling an order with one of the buyers they met while we were still in the country!

“We’re very pleased with the amount of genuine progress made by all of the businesses as a result of this trade mission, with feedback from the group underlining how much they have got out of it. Their enthusiasm for the experience has been incredibly encouraging and inspiring.”

Diary of a Delegate

An edited extract from a diary kept by Gerry Abrahams, of Tummy With Mummy Productions – one of the delegates on the Breakthrough Overseas trade mission to New York and Boston. Tummy With Mummy is an innovative baby chair which allows infants to lie comfortably on their stomachs.

Take eleven women from different parts of the UK. All working in different markets and all focused on breaking into the US marketplace. Most of us had never met before, yet we would spend a week in Boston and New York sharing an adventure that would take our businesses to another level.

For almost a year, I had been working on a license agreement for my business Tummy With Mummy with a large US organisation. I needed to know if I was choosing the best route for the product – or if there might be other alternatives that would be more suited to long-term success in the US. I wanted to learn about retail and online marketplaces and other distributors.

Sunday 13 May

Jenny Taylor of Santander Corporate Banking met us at Heathrow Airport and immediately put us at ease. There was a palpable energy and anticipation about the forthcoming trade mission.

On our first evening in Boston, we shared an excellent meal then retired in preparation...

Monday 14 May

We were welcomed at the British Consulate by the UK Consul General, Dr Phil Budden, and Kristen Chambers, Head of Trade and Investment, who presented a positive view of US/UK trade opportunities and relationships. Richard McKenna, President of marketing partnership WCM, gave us a list of reasons why 89% of US businesses view the UK favourably, before pointing out how we can improve our approach by being less cautious.

Tuesday 15 May

A day packed full of meetings with retailers, competitors and people who could answer some of the questions I had about how to overcome barriers to market access. I also attended a mother and baby Expo.

Wednesday 16 May

Travelled from Boston to New York on the train during the morning. Met with New York’s retailers and competitors during the afternoon.

Thursday 17 May

The morning programme at Goldman Sachs began with a short inspirational film narrated by Ana Botín. Louise Newsome, of the New York branch of the National Association of Professional Women US, spoke to us about the importance of networking for women in business. This was followed by another inspirational talk from Dina Powell, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Global Head of Corporate Engagement at Goldman Sachs. She showed a very moving film about the 10,000 Women programme, and I was delighted to hear of plans to bring the programme to the UK very soon.

The next guest speaker was Tamara Mellon, co-founder of UK brand Jimmy Choo, and a British Business Ambassador. We all pitched our businesses to her, explaining why we thought we were ready to take our products stateside. She gave us a fantastic insight into how she and Jimmy Choo took their brand to the US within the first two years of the business, a brave step that paid off handsomely. They recognised that the product had global appeal and exploited this as soon as possible. Her message was loud and clear: have a good product and a sound strategy, and never be afraid to take risks. On a more cautious note, she warned against taking on private equity partners too early – people who may want a quick return rather than staying in for the long game.

Friday 18 May

I had a very important call from the Juvenile Product Manufacturing Association, which oversees changes in safety standards legislation, providing certification, research and training for members. Taking a new product into the US calls for adherence to US-based safety standards that can be even stricter than those in the UK. I then met the owners of another company interested in my Tummy With Mummy product. The last evening of our trip was wonderful – we enjoyed a meal overlooking Central Park.

Saturday 19 May

I headed downtown to Pier 92 and the NY Baby Expo, talking to a lot of other exhibitors to gauge the market. I then met the potential licensing company from yesterday to talk in more detail about sales and contracts. The next step involves exchanging information, after which I will make some educated decisions.

Before we headed home, in the lounge at JFK, we each raised a glass and toasted our time in the US. I make another toast now: to my fantastic fellow entrepreneurs, to the brilliant Santander team who supported us so well and to Santander UK for making it all possible.

For more information about Gerry Abrahams and her business visit: www.tummywithmummy.com


“This has been a business/life changing experience for me”

Julia Gash, Bag it, Don’t Bin it

“It is a real honour to be a part of this mission. Loved every minute of it.”

Olga Kubassova, Image Analysis

“It has been an amazing week for so many reasons and I know some wonderful things are going to come out of it for all of us.”

Julia Minchin, Hippy Chick

“I have tried long and hard to sum up what this last week has meant to me, my business and my relationship with other like-minded women in business and I feel completely overwhelmed and lost for words.”

Petra Wetzel, West Beer

For more information about Santander's Breakthrough programme visit: www.santanderbreakthrough.co.uk

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK