In the meantime, Aldermore will be catching up with previous winners to learn how picking up an EEF Award has benefited their business, starting with allergy-friendly organic cosmetics brand Pai Skincare.
The company, founded by Sarah Brown in 2007, has won numerous awards in the beauty industry, but for Brown, the EEF Future Manufacturing Awards win offered something special.
“A lot of the awards we usually win are very much a product-specific award so this is a more all-encompassing award and I think it affects many more people in the business,” admits Brown. “The best-kept secret in beauty is that most companies don’t make their own products. We’re a very rare breed now and it’s often hard to get that message across, so winning an award like this gives us a wonderful opportunity to talk about that in a very positive way.”
For Brown, sourcing her skincare products from established production plants was never an option, since their unique formulae rely on natural ingredients which must be processed carefully to maintain quality.
“Literally everybody: bank manager; shareholders; anyone with a vested interest in the business, said please don’t manufacture and I was actively discouraged to do it,” Brown recalls. “I’m really glad I steadfastly ignored everybody because I knew what the ramifications of not manufacturing were in terms of quality of the product.”
“I’m very proud to be a British manufacturer,” Brown continues, stating her business offers a “different glimpse” from the image many people have of manufacturing as a “male-dominated environment” filled with, “greasy overalls and spanners”.
“People have a strange perception of manufacturing but ultimately it’s such a creative thing to do,” Brown states, adding that overseeing the production process from initial idea to end result is “a hundred times more satisfying,” than outsourcing. The ambitious entrepreneur also points out that Pai Skincare’s story shows setting up in manufacturing can be done on a budget, as the company started out using second-hand manufacturing equipment.
Of course, it has come a long way since then, and even expects to see 120 per cent sales growth at the end of its financial year this October. Unsurprisingly, given that the company took home the EEF Export Development Award, international sales have played a large part in this expansion.
“It’s very established wisdom that you always dominate your home market first and I just don’t agree with that,” reports Brown. “If we hadn’t started exporting, we would have seen really flat sales. We wanted to look abroad and at more buoyant markets, and thank goodness we did.”
Brown advises that SMEs must make difficult decisions when exporting, focusing on one or two key markets at a time rather than spreading their efforts too thinly by chasing multiple international opportunities.
“That was the lesson we learnt two years ago and that’s why we did what we did,” continues Brown. “We said ok let’s take Denmark as a test market in Scandinavia and get it all right, and we did.”
Having conquered the Danish market, Pai Skincare now has its sights set on Sweden and France, and has even seen marked online sales growth from China. They have learnt not to rest too heavily on previous experience when entering a new market though, particularly after discovering that Danish people almost universally favour showers and have no desire for bath sets.
Brown offers a few final words of wisdom for potential exporters with dreams of winning an EEF export award in the future, stating:
“If you don’t bother to do your own homework, you’re only relying on what your distributor tells you. You’re relying on them giving you advice that might not be right for your business or your brand.”
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