Ashington-based clothing brand, Montane, engineers lightweight clothing and equipment for endurance sports and activities. Founded over 20 years ago, Montane works with expeditions and athletes supporting climbing, mountaineering, polar exploration and endurance trail running, as well as sponsoring ultra-distance endurance races.
Engineer Chris Roff first had the idea for Montane in 1993 on an expedition in Chile. In between his trips venturing out to explore nature he began creating garments for friends and fellow mountain enthusiasts.
Montane grew in popularity and began exporting to the Republic of Ireland in 1996, with Hong Kong and Japan following in 1999. Now in 2016, Montane exports to around 35 countries including Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and the USA.
Montane’s managing director, Jake Doxat told BQ that exporting came naturally to the business: "My prior career had been in marketing alcoholic drinks internationally; and so it was just obvious and natural to push into the 99% of the world not represented by the UK. What’s more, the outdoor business (like sportswear) is characterised by international brands."
Although exporting was a natural step for Montane, it has not always been simple. Doxat explained that the company has had to overcome challenges along the way, notably the recent Brexit vote, as well as issues with currency. He said: "We now hedge all our currency requirements the moment we set our prices. Cultural differences can easily be managed through simple common sense and good manners, something which British people should and must do well at."
As well as being mindful of manners, Doxat’s advice to younger companies who are starting to look into exporting is to prepare as much as possible and always appear confident. He said: "Go to the relevant international trade show, and pre-prepare by emailing all the possible distributors and/or other sales channels for your type of products to drum up some appointments before going.
"Present yourselves as bigger and more successful than you are! You need to project an aura of inevitable success so you get new partners internationally to come on board."
Even after 20 successful years and exporting to an impressive 35 countries, there is still room for Montane to grow. Doxat said: "We have most markets covered, so it’s a question of upgrading the less good partners we have; and working more closely and better with the ones we want to continue with.
"At present we are around 50:50 UK to international, but we would like to get that to 25:75, as the company continues its 20% year-on-year growth."
The PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) are a partner for the Around the World in 80 Trades feature.
The Northern Powerhouse team of DIT offers a whole host of support for businesses across the Northern region that wish to export. Regular regional hosted webinars and events include topics such as strategy, finding the right market, finance, e-exporting and research. The sessions are very practical and provide guidance from those who have experienced exporters. For brand new exporters there are taster missions and trade missions, to a number of countries, where DIT find opportunities in a particular country and take UK companies to meet with potential buyers.
The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has overall responsibility for promoting UK trade across the world and attracting foreign investment to our economy. We are a specialised government body with responsibility for negotiating international trade policy and supporting business.