A London-based manufacturer of handmade inflatables is celebrating after securing a deal to design a range of bespoke inflatables for the fourth annual Bahrain Animal Production Show.
Studio Soufflé produced 25 handmade inflatables for the agricultural event, which is one of the largest shows held in Bahrain.
The inflatables included a range of large-scale animal sculptures and traditional ‘bouncy’ installations, including giant palm trees and even a blow-up chicken coop.
In 2015, Studio Soufflé started working with the Department for International Trade (DIT) to optimise its website for international trade, with a focus on developing export opportunities in key overseas markets, including those in the Middle East.
It credits its recent success to the updated website, as the show’s organisers made initial contact after finding them online and browsing Studio Soufflé’s products.
DIT supported the company to attend the 2017 Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity, giving the company an opportunity to meet key contacts face-to-face, and develop its overseas network.
The business – run by co-founders Mahani Baharum and Gaia Hannan - has been selling internationally since 2012, and has exported to customers in Spain, Malaysia, France, China and Canada.
Mahani and Gaia comprise the company’s core team of two, with the business hiring freelance creatives to assist with surges in production.
Its products have been featured by major brands and institutions, such as CNN, Cartoon Network, Selfridges and the Galleries Lafayette in Paris. In 2017, export sales accounted for 70% of the business’s total turnover.
Studio Soufflé’s overseas success is being celebrated as part of DIT’s Exporting is GREAT campaign, which aims to help more British businesses explore new markets overseas.
The campaign is currently showcasing a range of UK businesses – from a range of sectors and regions – to inspire and support firms up and down the country to export.
According to new statistics from DIT’s National Survey of Registered Businesses (released on the 7th of June), 73% of UK businesses with a turnover of more than £500,000 agree that there is a strong demand for British products abroad, with almost half (47%) of UK businesses of the same size expecting the country’s exports to increase over the next 5 years.
Mahani Baharum, co-founder of Studio Soufflé, said: “Although we’ve been exporting since the very beginning, the process hasn’t been without its hurdles, particularly around increasing the visibility of our brand to overseas customers.
“We do a lot of our business over the internet, and we have to work to make sure that our website is optimised for overseas customers – both in markets we already trade in, and those that we’re looking to enter.
“On top of this, we’ve had to work to navigate the unique regulations of each market we export to.
“Fire safety regulations, for example, are different in the USA to those in China, and we have to be very careful that the materials we use meet each country’s standards.
“While these challenges can be tricky to deal with, DIT has been on hand throughout our exporting journey to help make everything as smooth as possible.
“Since securing its help in optimising the website, we’ve seen a significant increase in customer enquiries, and we anticipate seeing traffic continue to grow. If we can find success abroad, others can too.”
Parveen Thornhill, regional director for London at the Department for International Trade, said: “Studio Soufflé is a great example of a local business that has impressed the world with its creativity and ingenuity.
“There is currently huge international demand for British goods, but we know that the exporting process can sometimes throw up challenges.
“To help firms get their products successfully to market, we offer direct support through more than 40 International Trade Advisers, based on the ground across London.
“These trade experts are dedicated to helping businesses like Studio Soufflé thrive overseas. I encourage anyone who is interested to get in touch and see how exporting can help their business become more profitable and resilient.”
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