20 June 2016

Made in the UK has US appeal

Faced with a saturated home market, Green Light Products looked overseas for expansion and has enjoyed success despite being an international novice.

International Festival for Business 2016

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Established in 1994, Green Light Products is owned and managed by Karl Yeo. The company develops biodegradable, compostable, recyclable and reusable packaging products, using sustainable raw materials and energy efficient manufacturing.

1. Make use of export support

In 2006, the company moved to a 15,000-square foot, purpose-built factory in Cardiff, lured by the business support being offered by the Welsh government. It joined trade missions organised by International Business Wales and by 2010 had the beginnings of a global distribution network.

"We were market-leaders in the UK with a strong brand, but relying on that market alone limited our potential for growth," says Karl Yeo.

Green Light now has 30 distributors in 25 countries, but Yeo says they are still very new to overseas trade.

2. Choose distributors carefully

"Our model is to build a network of regional distributors on a semi-exclusive basis," explains Yeo.

"Our USP is that we don't flood an area with distributors, so those who work with us get a better deal. We choose people based on their having a good sales infrastructure and their geographical coverage. We always meet face-to-face to get a feel for how entrepreneurial they are."

Coming late to the export game means Green Light is in competition with five other major companies. Most markets are already mature and competitors have a strong position; others - such as Brazil - initially need to be sold on the product concept.

3. Get the message right

Green Light Products brand is known and respected in Europe and the UK but is new to North American customers. The company is putting a lot of work into educating distributors about the business and making sure all documentation is keenly presented.

"It's an interesting market for us because we are working with a very large distributor who sells via catalogue and online. Traditionally, we've been feet on the ground kind of people, calling on customers and doing demonstrations," says Yeo.

"That happened after a chance meeting at a trade fair, and we're now looking to develop field sales teams and packaging distributors."

4. Focus on specific areas in the US

Yeo has found that, providing you have the right message and put in the effort, the US can be a simpler place to do business.

One of the key lessons has been recognising that the size of the US means focusing on specific areas. For Green Light, that was the mid-west as a starting point, but they've already had good feedback and enquiries from an exhibition in Chicago. They'll be exhibiting in Las Vegas later this year.

5. Take advantage of 'Made in the UK'

The Made in the UK tag has status in the US, he adds, which is why all the company's machines now carry the Union Jack.

"In Chicago, we had a lot of people asking us if the machines were Chinese," says Yeo. "It's important for us to get the Made in the UK message out there because of the perception of quality. It has a strong resonance in the US."

We were market-leaders in the UK with a strong brand, but relying on that market alone limited our potential for growth.

Karl Yeo, Green Light Products

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For further information about trading internationally, visit the HSBC Connections Lounge at the International Festival of Business in Liverpool where an HSBC Trade Specialist will be on hand to answer your questions or call +44 (0)800 78 31 300.

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