Entrepreneur Brian Sales launched the Frosterley-based firm 12 years ago in a bid to design and sell his own range of high-quality unique rug designs.
Despite being a small rural business, UK Heritage Rugs products have impressed so much that they now hold the sole licence to use fabrics and designs from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Museum.
Brian explains: “Our designs are inspired by the outstanding beauty of the countryside on our doorstep and when, by chance, we discovered RHS’s extensive library of priceless floral watercolours, we knew we wanted to include those images if we could.
“These images are seen around the world as ‘ironically British,’ and we know from trade stands that there is a huge demand for them.”
For over a decade, Brian and his team have sold to customers across the UK and the company has continued to go from strength-to-strength. However, it wasn’t until recently that he decided to explore the idea of selling his products overseas.
After getting in contact with his local Department for International Trade office (DIT NE), Brian was put in touch with international trade adviser Sue Beverley who helped him create an export strategy plan and get the business export-ready.
Brian said: “As we are such a small business, we couldn’t consider setting up distribution or sales teams overseas.
“Working with e-commerce experts at DIT, we have made great progress in getting international digital sales and are excited about next exporting steps.
“This year we are producing new designs specifically aimed at the export market, particularly the exciting US one.
“Having planned our export strategy with DIT and upgrade our online sales with their advice, we are now set to fly the flag for British designs internationally.”
Sue added: “Brian joined one of our digital workshops to find out how best to improve his digital sales and make his website more attractive and functional to more markets.
“We have continued to work with Brian to help him develop and implement an export strategy and are currently working with him on his plans to attend his first international exhibition – HighPoint in South Carolina in April.”
North East businesses exported over £10.7m worth of goods in 2016 and UK Heritage Rugs is just one of hundreds of businesses that have contributed to this figure.
A huge £6.6m of these goods and services were sold to countries in the EU, with Asia & Oceania totalling £1.203m and North America in third place at £1.050m.
Sue said: “There is a huge appetite for British goods across the world. Digital exporting in particular can be a great way for small businesses to increase their sales and turnover without having to go through the agent/distributor route which may suit larger companies better.
“There is a wide variety of support for exporters available from Department for International Trade out there – just contact us and we will help.”
So, if your business has a product or service which could easily be transferred overseas, why not see if exporting is right for you?