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Today Fishponds, tomorrow the world...

Dave Harvey | 07:55 UK time, Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Graham New is a Bristolian whose fortune lies in a good dose of envy. People, mostly women but increasingly men, often wish their hair was a different colour.

export_300609_graham_new.jpgOut of this human foible are big businesses built.

Big names like Wella, L'Oreal, Garnier and the like brew up the Honey Highlights and the Beach Blonde tubes. Less famous, but equally vital, are the little bits of tin foil they stick on your head to stop the colour leaching and protect your scalp.

And Graham New sells the foils. Procare, his firm, has pretty much cornered the market in the UK. They sell 75% of the foil used in salons. And a new gadget he's created now dispenses the foil strips in handy lengths, saving the hairdressers' fingers from annoying foil cuts.

But with the UK conquered, Mr New wants the world. So, how do you get to Oman from Fishponds? And do they want their highlights there?

They're banging the drum for export in Bristol today. Oddly, in a city built on trade, we seem to be lagging behind a bit when it comes to flogging West Country goodies all over the globe.

Of every pound earned abroad by UK PLC, just 4.8p came from companies based here. The North West does twice that.

export_300609_big_roll_still.jpgUK Trade & Investments (UKTI) is the quango paid to get firms exporting like there's no tomorrow. And they're running a special event aimed at small firms in the west in the city centre. Small companies are rarely frequent flyers, they have no budget to swan off and schmooze the Swedes or chat up the Chinese. So UKTI have brought the world to Bristol.

People from China and the Caribbean will be there, Oman, Mexico, Russia, the US, you name it. Michelle Mone, the underwear entrepreneur turned TV Pundit will offer her wisdom.

And in the audience, Graham New. "I'm hoping to learn a few tricks", he tells me. "Anything to get into a few more countries."

Oddly, it seems the recession has helped the export drive. Russell Jones, the Director of UKTI for the South West, used to find it hard going convincing small businesses in Taunton or Bradley Stoke that the global market mattered.

"Now, they all know it matters hugely", Mr Jones tells me. "They all watched the world go into recession. One part of it caught a cold, and soon the rest followed. Now no-one thinks we're an island any more."


  • Comment number 1.

    The South West may well only contribute 4.8% of UK PLCs exports but that might be for a couple of rather commendable reasons - firstly, given that the region is predominantly farmland rather than concentrations of manufacturing and technology businesses (and CD and graffiti-based-art sales may not show up in the figures) perhaps we are keeping the fruits of our labours to ourselves.

    Secondly, the South West boasts the highest concentration of organic enterprises, from farms to breweries, cafés to box schemes. Perhaps this greener than average hue also means that we are all selling and buying locally and regionally, so the West's wonga stays closer to home.

  • Comment number 2.

    Fair Point Dom, although i believe a fair number of the organic, artisan, hand made, wrapped in straw products you talk about do fly abroad. Thinking of westcountry cheddar, the PDO one; some of our best chutneys, even some vac-packed organic steak. Nonetheless, the biggie is manufacturing and our manufacturing sector is small.
    Also I think aerospace suppliers work is hidden. There's a firm in Crewkerne make carbon fibre bits for the A380, which is sold all over the world, but i think that is chalked up as Toulouse rather than Crewkerne... complex web, huh?


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