The Breakthrough International New York Trade Mission 2014 took place in June. Seven days, 10 ambitious entrepreneurs, three Breakthrough representatives and one goal: to enable delegates to develop new contacts and deepen their understanding of the American market, allowing them to make informed decisions about their potential for growth via overseas trade.
“All members of the group had a similar can-do attitude, and the Santander team facilitated and supported us incredibly well” Achille Traore, CEO of Top Screen Media
The trip was hugely beneficial to all the invited delegates and built upon the success of Breakthrough’s previous Trade Missions to Boston, Brazil and Mexico, as well as a previous visit to New York. The Trade Missions are just one part of Santander’s commitment to helping UK businesses make their mark, both in the UK and internationally, with the support of the Breakthrough programme.
The aims of each delegate were determined before their plane left the ground, so that important meetings and vital introductions could be facilitated during their visit. Delegate Achille Traore is the CEO of Top Screen Media, a company that has already been commissioned by Transport for London to develop a new navigation solution that includes Top Screen’s Offerpod touchscreen product. “Our goal was to find out the potential for our products in the US,” he explains. “To do that properly we had to be introduced to the right people, and the Trade Mission enabled that to happen.”
Michelle Wright is the Chief Executive of Cause4, which helps charities and social enterprises find innovative ways of raising funds to support growth. “I had three clear aims for the Trade Mission,” she says. “They were to get closer to the major philanthropy foundations based in New York; to advance projects for clients in the UK and Europe with a New York connection; and to find out how our work could translate into America, which is often recognised as leading the world in philanthropy and fundraising business models. I achieved all of those goals and I’m already working on projects based on the relationships that I built in New York.”
“As a result of the Breakthrough International Trade Mission, I now have direct access to the right people and the positive outcomes we’ve had as a result have definitely made Top Screen Media focus more internationally,” says Achille. “For example, we had a meeting with Patrick Foye, CEO of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which looks after airports, roads, tunnels and bridges. Our proposal was well received – largely due to our understanding of the industry and the challenges that face it – and we’ve since been asked to work on a pilot project for them. We’re also working on a virtual concierge service for [New York-based] digital company Celeritas Digital Solutions, for its hotel clients.”
“I also realised that to operate in the city, I will need a New Yorker on the ground to represent us. I’m already meeting potential candidates and I expect to have a representative and office based in New York within a year” Michelle Wright, Chief Executive of Cause4
Michelle Wright has had similar success since the New York trip. “There was immediate interest in our graduate fundraiser programmes and we’re in talks about an associate programme in the major Universities and Conservatoires in New York,” she says. “I will also return to New York in October 2014 to run three events for three separate charities, building on the philanthropic connections that I made whilst on the Breakthrough Mission.”
On the ground learning
However much research you do beforehand, it’s only by experiencing the market first hand that you will get a true understanding of how your business might perform overseas. “The Trade Mission showed me that we need to think internationally about our marketing and communications for Cause4; UK terms such as ‘third sector’ don’t translate in New York,” says Michelle. “I also realised that to operate in the city, I will need a New Yorker on the ground to represent us. I’m already meeting potential candidates and I expect to have a representative and office based in New York within a year.”
“I learnt that meetings in the US usually last for 30 minutes, rather than the hour you generally get in the UK,” says Achille. “It made me aware my pitch needs to be shorter and more targeted.”
Challenge and support
As well as the commercial success that both Achille and Michelle generated on the Trade Mission, each enjoyed the opportunity to engage with their fellow delegates. “Being with such an ambitious group of entrepreneurs provided lots of challenge and support, plus a chance to decompress with like-minded individuals,” says Michelle. “The Trade Mission was an incredible opportunity to immerse myself in another business culture but also to gain headspace to think about strategy, which can be difficult when I’m so busy running Cause4 day-to-day.”
“All members of the group had a similar can-do attitude, and the Santander team facilitated and supported us incredibly well,” says Achille. “The experience has been hugely beneficial to Top Screen Media. The Breakthrough International New York Trade Mission took me out of my comfort zone, opened me up to new networks and made new opportunities happen. If you want to grow your business internationally, you have to get out there.”