‘Foster a community of sharing rather than one of competition’

The emerging opportunities for Omani businesses in international markets are immense. To help existing and potential Omani exporters, as well as the wider business community, take advantage of everything the international market has to offer, Ithraa has organised Oman Export Week 2019 (OEW19), which runs during October 27 – 31 at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre.

In the lead up to this event we are interviewing OEW19 workshop presenters, giving them the chance to preview their workshop themes.
So, in no more than 30 seconds, tell us your elevator pitch. Who are you and what do you do?
I am Amanda Lee (pictured), Nest’s Director of Brand Strategy and Sourcing, so I have the fun job of helping fashion and home brands connect transparently and responsibly with Nest’s network of more than 600 talented artisans worldwide.
Can you tell us about your OEW19 workshop and what can attendees expect to learn from the session?
I will be leading the Global Creativity Market with Nest Consultant, Sapna Shah. In our session we will be sharing information about understanding the global export market, covering strategies for identifying the target customer, exploring sales channel opportunities, developing effective market entry strategies and navigating client expectations.
Do you think there is an awakening going on with start-ups and small businesses? They’re starting to see there are opportunities out there. How can we encourage people who don’t see themselves as exporters, but have the potential?
Consumers are increasingly craving handmade items, in fact a recent American Marketing Association study found that shoppers will pay 17 per cent more for handcraft. Digital and social medial platforms like Instagram are opening up new doors for consumers to discover micro-enterprises and make purchases directly from them. At Nest, we love to see the rising number of small artisan enterprises capitalising on this interest and accessibility.
How can a small business know when it’s ready to export? What are the boxes they need to tick before taking the plunge?
Product expertise is critical. This not only means knowing your product, but also the products around you that you may be sitting in the company of. Make time for research — ask yourself: What does the market landscape look like? Who is my competition? How are they are selling? What seems to be working and where are the opportunities to improve? Secondly, hire an accountant to help with the numbers, make sure you have a strategy for scaling sustainably, and assess carefully when to take risks to grow.
How do you see global trading patterns changing in the future?
As more small enterprises enter the market and more consumes adopt practices to slow climate impact, I hope to see global trade expand strategically in ways that put greater emphasis and reliance on regional resources and opportunities.
Do you think overseas business leads to fresh ideas and innovation, helping upgrade products and services?
Given the incredible amount of market saturation and accessibility to products and services today, creativity and innovation are essential ingredients for growth and survival. Businesses that can lean into their local resources to make their products special and innovative have a rare competitive advantage and opportunity to tell their one-of-a-kind stories.
You only have so long to capture a potential customer’s attention and even less before you lose it! So you have to get straight to the point.
What advice would you give small firms trying to tell their story in a new market?
Invest in professional photo and video assets. Visual content is highly impactful and can be a powerful tool to communicate information and messaging. But keep it short to match with today’s consumer attention spans!
What opportunities in terms of sectors and markets are there for Omani businesses in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa?
We advise all artisan businesses exploring new market entry to test the waters with plenty of market testing. For example, participating in a pop-up shop can be a great way to dip a toe in.
What advice would you give a founder or CEO who’s just starting their exporting journey?
Ask questions, listen and share, and participate. There is so much to learn, many people to learn from and so many who can learn from you. Foster a community of sharing rather than one of competition. .
Can you share with us what you believe will be the top three exporting trends over the next few years?
1. More connection and supply chain transparency through technology.
2. More creative ways for packaging and materials.
3. Sourcing from smaller businesses.