An Australian business leader undertaking a major push overseas has opened up about her experience and shared some insights with other SMEs looking to expand abroad.
Carlia Ashton, who founded natural skincare company ONNE in 2015, recently signed a partnership with Co Brand Partners Limited as part of a major push into the US market.
Under the partnership, Co Brand Partners, which has offices in LA and Hong Kong and Sydney, has taken an equity stake, providing ONNE with capital and expertise to upscale in overseas markets, particularly the US.
“This partnership represents the next step for ONNE, and will help us fast-track our international expansion plans,” Ms Ashton said.
“They will be an important partner to assist the company in achieving our growth aspirations through connecting ONNE with leading North American beauty experts, and by providing support through associated investments across digital and consumer marketing sales and distribution platforms in the US and China.”
Speaking to My Business about seeking out relevant partners and distributors for overseas expansion, Ms Ashton said that there is nothing better than the personal touch.
“Sometimes you can find distributors online, but the best way is in person through contacts,” she said.
“Finding the right distributor who understands your business can take a long time, so don’t jump at the first offer on the table.”
According to Ms Ashton, it is crucial to research both the intended market and the major players within it before approaching or accepting offers of investment, partnership or support, to ensure a proper fit for your business and your intended growth path.
“Make the time to meet your potential distributors, ideally face to face if you can, to make sure you trust them with your brand and products,” she said.
“Research is key. Learn which other brands the distributor represents — do they complement yours or compete?
“[Also] take the time to understand your international market. Is your target market the same? Where [will your product sit] in the market? You may also have very different competitors to consider. There may be different compliance regulations, and your customers may have different expectations or demands. Make sure you’re going in with eyes wide open.”
Ms Ashton added that it is important to be adaptable, and remember that the lack of a language barrier in a country like the US is no guarantee that their processes and way of doing things will be the same as here in Australia.
With the serious side out of the way, Ms Ashton also said that it is important to remember that expansion should be an exciting time for any business leader.
“Stay excited,” she urged.
“You wanted to expand overseas for a reason, so even though it’s challenging, and the unexpected may arise, keep focused on why you wanted to do this in the first place.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.