The trailblazers: Selling overseas

The trailblazers: Selling overseas

As the Business Growth Hub celebrates five successful years of supporting the businesses of Greater Manchester, we focus on some of the firms who are growing their businesses in foreign markets.

One of the four key areas of development the Growth Hub are supporting businesses to embrace is international trade – the obvious benefits include a raft of additional customers, and the fact that ‘British’ is seen as a strong brand overseas.

Perhaps less obvious - but every bit as valuable – benefits include being able to reduce some elements of seasonality, and keep pace with a wider range of potential competitors and collaborators.

Firms in and around Greater Manchester have been pushing on to great exporting success – here are a few of their stories.


Bury is world renowned for its black puddings, many of which are produced by the Bury Black Pudding Company, who have been serving up 38 tonnes per week of the delicacy using their 100-year-old recipe.

When a Chinese delegation visited the town in March this year, they were given a factory tour which proved to be a springboard for Debbie Pierce, MD, to start looking at a partnership with a Chinese food distributor.

“As a business we were already doing well before we started working with the Hub, but I think we all knew we could do even better. Tracy has given us a lot more focus and we’re now ‘working smarter,’” said Debbie.


Grafea manufacture luxury leather bags, rucksacks and satchels which they sell to Italy, China, Russia and America from their site in Dukinfield in Tameside, Manchester. Turnover has doubled in the space of two years for the firm.

They engaged an IP specialist to help them protect their intellectual property in the Chinese marketplace, and have created eleven new jobs through their exporting activity – international sales have increased tenfold.

Grafea’s Charis Kioupouroglou commented “I would highly recommend the Business Growth Hub and UKTI to anyone running a business. Their support in accessing finance and grants, and practical help with exporting and our website, has been pivotal in growing the business.”


Founded in 2010, digital marketing agency Volcanic supply specialist recruitment websites and job boards.

The Stockport firm works with recruitment agencies of all sizes, from multi-million PLCs to smaller specialist recruiters, with offices in London, Liverpool and Doncaster, and in November 2015 started their international expansion with the launch of an office in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

The Hub worked with Volcanic to build and implement a global expansion strategy and helped them secure a £3,000 grant which was used to carry out crucial market research and assess the demand for their services in several key countries.

They’re forecasting a 25% increase in turnover by 2018.

Volcanic has also increased its client base from 20 to 100 over the last 12 months, and were named as one of the UKTI North West Export Champions for 2016.

Rob Wilde, co-founder of Volcanic, says: “It has long been our intention to grow Volcanic internationally. In Kuala Lumpur we were able to employ some brilliant local talent and build up a base in the area. Now we are looking to expand into further territories and with ongoing access to support services from the Hub, Volcanic will continue to grow both abroad and in the UK.”


Temporary traffic management equipment is manufactured by Melba Swintex, which employs 125 people at its Bury factory.

The business was looking to break into international markets with a new export strategy to bolster domestic sales. Innovative ideas existed, but the management team didn’t know how to exploit them.

On her first visit, Hub growth advisor Tracy Eyres helped them apply for funds to develop a new prototype for a road traffic cylinder for use on the continent. The finance will help to pay for new machinery, R&D and marketing and if successful will double their exports to 20% of overall turnover.

Along with other support, the Growth Hub has helped to safeguard all 125 jobs at the company and lay the foundation for further expansion. The company turnover has increased by 16% and profits by 96% in the year to March 2015.

Paul Harrison, finance director, added: “I must admit I was sceptical at first and unsure about what the Hub could really do for us. But the support they have offered has been superb, particularly the way they can link up businesses and other organisations. Tracy has also been a fantastic sounding board and can offer a different perspective on things.”