Business across the West Midlands can access a specialist funding stream that aims to help them export for the first time or expand their overseas markets.
The West Midlands SME International Growth Project (SME IGP), funded via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has approved 220 grants since January 2017, providing match-funded grants worth more than £500,000.
Walsall-based Earthbound, which manufactures pet bedding and accessories, received £3,000 in match-funding to enable it to attend the major Zoomark trade fair in Bologna, Italy.
David Higgins, UK sales manager, said: “You need to do a lot of business to cover the costs of any show so having the ERDF funding was a real help for a company of our size.
“There are a lot of big players in this industry so we’re having to work hard to get our products and our name noticed. We wouldn’t have done Zoomark if it wasn’t for the ERDF funding.”
The fair was a huge success for the company, which picked up £47,000 worth of business from a customer in Ireland, as well as a further £30,000 orders from retailers in another Spain, France and Italy.
“Exporting is without doubt making us stronger as a business,” said David. “It would be more difficult for us to grow and thrive if we weren’t proactively looking to the export market. I’d urge any company thinking about exporting to contact its local DIT office and see what help it could get.”
The project is delivered by West Midlands Chambers of Commerce (WMCC) and funded as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014 – 2020.
Allen Matty, managing director of WMCC, said success such as that experienced by Earthbound is being replicated across the region, thanks to their applications for match-funded grants of between £1,000 and £3,000.
Funding has also provided businesses with the chance to access sector expert events, such as Meet the Buyer, invitations to market visits to investigate potential business openings, and trade shows.
“We’ve seen some extremely positive results and business wins from local companies that have been able to take advantage of this grant scheme,” he said.
“With just eight months left of the ERDF funding scheme, we’d encourage any SME in the area that wants to export or grow overseas to consider applying for it. It’s not just a cash boost, it’s also about and accessing the specialist support they need and minimising the risks in overseas markets.”
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