Making it big in America is often seen as the dream. Perhaps a little ambitious for a small business owner from Chesham in Buckinghamshire that makes eco-friendly doors - albeit rather lovely bespoke ones. Nonetheless, a few months back, not only did I have the opportunity to travel to New York to try and make it big, but I discovered there was actually a far healthier market for our product than I thought. After only a little searching I found success in the most unlikely and prestigious of places.
The trip, which I managed to secure a place on, was part of a rather clever scheme I found on the internet that Santander has set up in order to help small businesses like mine grow, and was aimed at giving us a good step up into the US market. A few days in, I was thrown in at the deep end and taken to a networking event at the British Consulate's residence, where I had the privilege of speaking to the British Consulate General himself, Danny Lopez. Always on the look out for a chance to promote my business, I got straight to the point. I mentioned the latest door we had produced, a special edition Olympic-inspired Union Jack piece, and asked him how I could market it in the States. Of course, I was expecting the polite small talk you'd imagine from such a busy man; however I was shocked when he said he would see if they could have one installed in his residence. He then proceeded to walk around the place working out where he could put it. Rather sceptically, as any shrewd businesswoman would be and thinking he was just being nice, I played along.
I really didn't expect anything to come of it and the next day, went about my business as usual, speaking to potential partners through which I could do business. While on my way to another meeting on the other side of town, I received a call from the Consulate's office asking me to come over to the office as soon as possible to confirm the booking. Stunned, I jumped on a tandem as there weren't any taxis in sight and sped over to the Consul. Danny's staff met me at reception, we organised the measurements and the rest is history. In the US people don't mess around and deals are done quickly.
The deal might sound small, just one door, but this really was the step up the business needed to strengthen our presence in the US, and build on our current position. The doors we make are bespoke, high end and eco-friendly and range in price between £3000 and £7000 and therefore the right kind of customers can be hard to come across. So, not only was this a healthy bit of business for us but the potential marketing exposure was huge. Over 6,000 dignitaries walk through the British Consul's residence's door every year including foreign and US minsters, so a lot of influential people are going to see it. I recently went back to see the door installed and the editor of the FT came in just as I walked out and Danny promised to speak highly of the door to him. It really couldn't have got much better.
For any entrepreneurs out there who feel their growth in the UK might be waning a little in the difficult economic times, I implore you to look overseas. I was lucky enough to stumble across Santander's Breakthrough programme while googling 'how to grow your business' back in April. After going on their trade mission to the US, I've made numerous commercial partnerships, appointed a sales representative on the ground to deal with orders and of course landed the best bit of free advertising I could possibly have wished for with our very own Twenty 12 door in the British Consulate's residence. As an entrepreneur who's had to struggle doing business through the recession, I wish I'd worked harder to increase our business in the US a long time ago.