Exporting to China on the horizon?

Catherine Cervasio, Founder & MD of Aromababy, is one of Australia’s most successful exporting entrepreneurs. Having first conquered the Australian market by creating a new category in the Australian retail space for her natural and organic baby skincare products, Aromababy is now the only Australian natural baby skincare brand with registered products in China.

Aromababy is exported and stocked in hundreds of stores across Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, the Middle East, Korea and China. Catherine started exporting to China about five years ago and it now accounts for about 40% of their overall export business.

When your product is going great guns here in Australia, the next natural step for many businesses is to explore exporting to other markets. But whilst exporting presents a significant growth opportunity, especially if it’s to highly populated markets such as the US or China, the size and scale of these countries can also be a risk.

Catherine shares her top business advice for exporting to China.

Research Research Research

Be sure to research everything! The more you know, the fewer surprises there will be as you travel on your business journey. Know your market, your customer, your industry, and your peers.

It’s important to know your point of difference in the export market, as the competitors will probably be different to the ones in Australia. If you don’t have a point of difference, find another fabulous angle which will form part of your elevator pitch.

For those of you looking to export, you will need country specific information. Be sure to check out the information available at Austrade.

The site has heaps of information on a wide variety of topics including a section on successful exporter case studies. Reading case studies/success stories from those who have already taken the bold step of starting a business some years before you, can provide insights which may help you avoid mistakes and will provide you with inspiration to propel you forward - Here’s a snapshot of my story so far.

Also, check out the online information provided by the various commerce chambers and business associations in your city as they offer lots of practical advice.


Apply for eligible grants

Look for all the grants you might be eligible for from Federal, State and Local Government, as well as specific industry grants.

The Australian Government currently offers Export Market Development Grants, which provides financial assistance for aspiring and current exporters.


Ask others for advice

Both mentoring and general networking are great ways to tap into the knowledge and experience of people who have been there and done it before.

I may be biased, but if you’re wanting to talk to those experienced in a particular field, there is Top Expert. What I love about this is you can browse a range of business leaders who have specific expertise, in a particular sector, and book and pay for a mentoring session as short as 30 minutes. The site allows you to book across multiple experts and gain real insights into, for example, ecommerce or exporting.

I am also a big believer of networking. Choose solid organisations which have members who are willing to share and collaborate. There are many to choose from, however Business Chicks is one of my favourites and they offer a range of ways to interact with other members or be profiled in their publication Latte.


Own your IP

If possible, develop, own and protect your IP. China, or any market you export to, can quickly copy what you are selling, so it’s important to know your product intimately and own your IP. At the end of the day it may not matter how superb a business you develop if you have no intellectual property when it comes to an exit strategy in years to come.


Question everything

It’s wonderful to have an idea for a new product or service, but before you jump in head first, it’s important to ask yourself the right questions to prepare.

Here are some things to think about when developing your business plan:

1. What problem are you solving for the purchaser of your goods?

2. Is your export market local (metro or regional), could it be targeted to multiple markets or could it even go global?

3. Who are your competitors, and what is the extra value you offer? The more unique factors you can offer in a market where there is existing demand, the higher the price you’ll be able to demand for your goods.

4. Where does your product sit in the market – is it premium, mass or somewhere in the middle?

5. Does your pricing and packaging reflect this positioning? If you are looking to enter the premium space, everything needs to be ‘polished’ and you will need to be looking at overseas trends in packaging finishes, inks, colours and so on.  Consumers will expect nothing less than perfection.

6. What’s your pricing model? Make sure you do your research on all the postage and distribution costs.

7. Would you consider sourcing a distributor or sales agent? Depending on your confidence levels navigating an international retail landscape, you may want to consider this added expertise. However, keep in mind, you will lose a chunk of profit in doing so.

8. If your business idea is particularly innovative, how will you educate consumers/buyers on the key points of difference, unique selling points and features? How will you change their current purchasing behaviour?

9. Do you have funds for marketing, education and advertising in order to stand out in a new market – with a new idea?

There is a lot to consider when deciding whether to export. If you need some personalised business advice Catherine is available for a chat.


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