Although Brexit has brought uncertainty to many businesses across the UK, Sean Ramsden, Chief Executive of Ramsden International, feels it’s actually an opportunity for SMEs looking to export.
Over the last 20 years Ramsden International has carved a unique niche as a B2B exporter of British food and drink brands to countries across the globe, generating a turnover of more than £50m a year.
In recent years, the company has diversified both their product offering and the markets they export to. Part of Ramsden’s success comes from its agility; adapting to changing markets and identifying new opportunities. This, says Sean, is where SMEs should be ready to grasp opportunity as Brexit challenges the economic status quo.
“My view of Brexit is positive,” says Sean. “Instead of hindering British export industries, I think Brexit could actually allow UK businesses to develop their global activity and expand their horizons past Europe. Markets in the EU haven’t always been the most lucrative for British SMEs, in terms of profit and trading. With Brexit, SMEs could find themselves faced with more interesting opportunities in growing markets.”
Ramsden International has had particular success with growth markets in the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific, where an emergent middle class are driving demand for high quality products and branded goods. While the company originally exported solely to markets with an ex-pat community, they now deliver to new markets with a growing taste for British quality products.
“I can only really speak for the food and drink sector, but in my experience, ‘Made in the UK’ seems to be a hallmark of quality for markets around the world. I think a lot of UK SMEs could leverage on this reputation in the next few years.”
That’s not to say that international export is easy – or for everyone. “I’m passionate about encouraging SMEs to export, but it’s not right for every business. Ask yourself, is now the right time to export? I’ve seen companies spending scarce resources on overseas activity, when really they would do better to develop their domestic market first.”
“If it is the right time,” adds Sean, “what’s the best way to go about it? Plan carefully, be selective, and target the right markets. It’s a constant learning process and you have to be ready to adapt.”
During his time as chief executive of Ramsden International, Sean has had a clear vision for the company, focussing on the brand as “a pioneer in UK food and drink exportation”. Having transformed an industry previously driven entirely by the food and drink manufacturers themselves, Sean feels it’s this pioneering vision that has been key to Ramsden International’s success.
“Yes, we’ve adapted along the way, but as a company we have always stayed true to our values and kept sight of our long-term goals,” says Sean. “If you have an idea of where you want to be, it’s a lot easier to get there.”
Sean Ramsden was featured in the 2017 Smith & Williamson Power 100, celebrating those who champion British entrepreneurship, created in association with Fresh Business Thinking.