Despite a global pandemic hitting many of the city’s industries hard, these Manchester SMEs have not let that get in the way of their plans for international expansion.
Bedding brand Trendsetter and women’s fitness wear firm Just Strong are among around 100 companies who will have benefited from millions of pounds in extra revenue helped by the Growth Company’s (GC) Global Scale-up programme by next year.
The companies told BusinessLive the programme has been “instrumental”, and they are now seeing the benefits of international expansion despite Covid-19 restrictions.
According to the GC, SMEs who took part in the first cohort have seen an additional £24m in revenue, with 16 international visits attended before lockdown, as well as a “host of activity” in new markets, including product launches and office openings, while also giving back to their local communities.
Around 100 companies will have completed the programme by 2021.
Launched in July 2019 and delivered by the GC’s Business Growth Hub, the Global Scale-up Programme enables businesses across the city region to expand into international markets with the support of programme partners KPMG, DWF, Santander, Manchester Airport and working with the Department for International Trade.
Anna Carson-Parker, Global Scale-up project manager, said: “The Global Scale-up programme has had a genuine positive impact for businesses on the programme who were looking to expand their operations internationally.
“Despite the current climate the programme still has an important role to play, not only does it create opportunities and forge new connections, it also coaches business leaders on their expansion into global markets.
“Businesses that export are typically more resilient, so it is important that international ambitions remain high on the agenda.
“The success of the programme is down to the global ambition of the businesses on the programme and the support of our programme partners.”
The first of its kind outside London, the Global Scale-up Programme gives the city region’s businesses access to a global market entry network alongside tailored coaching, international growth sprints and regular bootcamps, which have gone online during lockdown.
Among the businesses thriving as a result of taking part in the programme are Bolton-based Just Strong, a producer of women’s fitness wear whose brand is built around an emphasis on female empowerment.
They have increased their sales by £7.5m since joining Global Scale-up thanks to a continued expansion in the US market.
The firm saw record sales since the start of the pandemic, which they said is helped by their work in bringing women together on social media and empowering them to stay fit during lockdown.
They are currently working to explore new markets in South Korea, Japan, China and Hong Kong.
Mark Robinson, Founder and CEO of Just Strong, said: “The Global Scale-up team has been instrumental in supporting us during the turbulent times we’ve all just faced. I can only commend their willingness to introduce, connect and support Just Strong as we prepare for our next stage of growth.
“They always willing to go an extra mile for us. With high growth in a relatively new business, it’s been very important for us to have the right help on hand.”
Meanwhile, Stretford bedding brand Trendsetter has put its focus on international growth, targeting new markets in North America and Europe.
Managing director Claire Watkin is the fourth generation of her family to run the 100-year-old business from its Trafford Park base.
She said a focus on sustainable materials and green production methods have boosted the company’s growth, adding: “There have been many benefits of taking part in the Global Scale-up Programme – the networking with other businesses, sharing challenges and successes and learning from each other, looking at new techniques to drive forward our team such as the International Growth Sprint.
“The programme has really reaped much greater benefits over the last few months when as a consequence of the impact of COVID-19 on our business, we have been forced like many other businesses to reappraise how we do things.”
Ms Watkin added: “For every challenge that we have faced we have been given advice or contacts for those that can help us on our journey.
“As a result, we have been able to change the way we are operating and really start to gain much greater traction.
“Our huge thanks to all those who have taken part or supported the programme and Trendsetter on the journey so far and for the future.”