New York Trade Mission: Women in Business
The latest Breakthrough Trade Mission saw nine female delegates head to New York to explore the potential of the US export market
The third Breakthrough Women in Business Trade Mission took place between 5 and 11 October. The destination was New York and the goal was to take delegates to the US gateway and deepen their understanding of this important market. The trip helped delegates to expand their networks, develop their contacts and discover if overseas trade in the US and beyond is the best choice for their business.
“New York is the financial centre of the US and home to the head offices to many of the country’s major corporations,” says Rachel Nash, Head of Operations and Delivery, Breakthrough. “The city is fast-paced and all about growth; the people are keen to assist and they really know how to network! That combination is really valuable to the businesses we take out there.”
With the exception of all being women, the delegates on the Trade Mission could not have been more diverse. The businesses ranged from the design and manufacture of mobile drilling rigs to the design and manufacture of knitwear; from technology platforms to baggage-handling solutions; powerboat production to guidance on compliance with EU cosmetic regulations; plus pelvic-floor exercise machines, child safety chairs and intimate body products. “Generally, our Trade Missions comprise an 80:20 ratio of men to women. Santander is a huge supporter of women in business and this trip allowed us to open up the possibilities of New York and the US to a phenomenal group of women,” says Rachel.
Angela Davies, Managing Director of cosmetic compliance testing company Microbiological Solutions, agrees. “Knowing the other delegates would all be women was a big plus for me,” she says. “I work in science, where not many businesses are female-owned. It was refreshing to be with people who share the same issues and challenges as me.”
The US approach
“In the US, female- and minority-owned companies are supported by laws that state that 20% of business must go to them,” says Rachel. “It was interesting for our delegates to see how the market is different to that of the UK and how their business might work within it.”
“One of the conversations was about employing talent and ensuring culture fit…and that was just over breakfast.” Paula Kemp, Senior Events Manager, Breakthrough
The Trade Mission began with a briefing session from research organisation Catalyst, which demonstrated that while 53% of the US workforce is female, only 5% of CEOs are women. “That statistical analysis really resonated with the delegates,” says Rachel. Delegates had a meeting with Julia Pimsleur, CEO and founder of Little Pim, the leading system for teaching children a second language. Little Pim is one of the few women-run businesses in the US backed by venture capital. “She had huge insight into the business world, but she is also a big supporter of empowering women and the Women in Business agenda in the USA,” says Rachel.
Understanding the market
We may speak the same language but when it comes to doing business in the US and the UK, there are profound differences. “It was important for our delegates to understand that,” says Paula Kemp, Senior Events Manager, Breakthrough. “UKTI gave a briefing on the legal framework of operating a business in the US and Santander was able to explain the economic backdrop.” In addition, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce hosted a networking brunch for the delegation.
Each attendee also had one-to-one meetings with legal experts. “Many of them met with intellectual property lawyers because the rules around IP are very different in the US,” explains Paula. “The delegates told me how fortunate they were to have this advice provided for free as part of the Trade Mission – they realised the value (both financially and practically) of the expertise they were getting.”
Angela was able to access invaluable advice on working with a commissioned agent in the US. “It helped us to understand the legal and financial framework, and enabled us to draw up a contract with an agent who is now representing us in the US. We’ve had a great response already.”
Contacts and networking
The opportunity to meet like-minded businesspeople is central to every Breakthrough Trade Mission. “I’ve never seen a group network so frenetically! They had no ego about their businesses, which meant they were open to insight and ideas,” says Paula. “One of the conversations was about employing talent and ensuring culture fit… and that was just over breakfast.”
A networking session facilitated by UKTI offered opportunities to make direct contacts with potential US partners. Angela is already in talks with two potential customers that she met while on the Trade Mission. She was also able to meet with existing clients while in New York. “Talking to them face-to-face has brought in a huge amount of extra work already,” she says. “Breakthrough helped me to realise the importance of on-the-ground networking.”
Gabriela Hayler, CFO of Dando Drilling International, had productive meetings with the UN and the Rockefeller Foundation. And Fiona Pool, CEO of Hunton Powerboats, tagged a trip to Miami for a trade event onto the end of her New York stay. “She told us that, with the Trade Mission and boat show, she had achieved more in two weeks than she would have expected to achieve in six months in the UK,” says Paula.
Back to business
Maintaining the momentum generated by the Trade Mission is essential to maximising the value when back in the UK. “We are already supporting the delegates with that,” says Paula. “We have suggested to some that taking on an intern through the Santander Universities programme might be useful. With others, we’re helping to identify the best export market for their product or service, or putting them in touch with contacts who might be a partner or an advocate for their business.”
“The Santander representatives on the Trade Mission were fantastic at getting us into appointments and supporting us during those meetings,” confirms Angela. “It confirmed for me that Santander is forward-thinking and puts a lot of emphasis on building a business. That’s been very beneficial to us and it’s one of the reasons we have now switched our banking to Santander.”
“For some of the delegates, the Trade Mission confirmed that growth for their business will come out of the US; for others, it was the first steps in clarifying their proposition for the US,” says Rachel. “It is a huge consumer market with fantastic potential for UK businesses and it also opens the door to South America. We hope that for our Women in Business, it really will be the land of opportunity.”