already boasts several success stories. Meaden cites Gripple, a Sheffi eld- based wire joining and tensioning device maker that is growing sales by 20 per cent and enjoying strong export demand after it increased innovation and improved its new product development process through the programme.
“They have been blown away by
the difference it has made to their business,” says Meaden. “They are not doing anything different. They are just presenting themselves in a new way and tapping into new markets because their thought process has changed.” Success stories like these are proof of the impact design-led thinking can have. “Design is everywhere,” she continues. “We design our homes and lives, this isn’t highfalutin. Either we can do it in an informed and structured way or we can just have a bit of a stab at it.” The scheme is not just aimed at manufacturing businesses either, Meaden adds. “Look at any service industry. They should have well-designed workplaces, engagement programmes and shops. Everything should be thought about.” One of her own businesses, valuation service Value My Stuff, an investment from Dragon’s Den, is a good example of the need for such considered thinking when trying to tackle new markets. “We
thought we would just take live valuation to China,” she explains, “but it turns out Chinese people think it’s rude to fi nd out the value of an inherited heirloom. “We had no process to consider what we should be doing to tackle this market. If we had spent more time thinking about how to enter China, we probably would have got where we were going quicker. “Luckily, we are pretty fl eet of foot and have discovered people are happy to have their property valued and like it to be done so by British valuers, so we’re fi nding our model is very different – valuing entire collections and entire houses. It shows you don’t have to spend millions to change the way you do something. Often it’s a question of approaching what you do from a fresh angle.”
NEW SHORES According to Meaden, undergoing this process may open up new opportunities in new markets overseas and help UK fi rms overcome reticence about trading globally. “Particularly at the SME end of things, a lot of people conquer the market they know – their home market,” she says. “I say that’s often a good route, but you don’t stop there.
“If it works in your home market, it is likely to work in other markets, even if it’s
“IF IT WORKS IN YOUR HOME MARKET, IT IS LIKELY TO WORK IN OTHER MARKETS, EVEN IF IT’S PRESENTED SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY”
presented slightly differently. Our national boundaries are often a psychological barrier to doing new business and it’s not that diffi cult to look for opportunity beyond our shores. “It’s easier than people think. Yes it
introduces issues like exchange rates or new fi nance instruments, but once you get to understand them they are not quite as scary as they fi rst seem.”
LIGHT-BULB MOMENT Another of Meaden’s businesses, luxury cloth weaver Fox Brothers, illustrates, she believes, the potential for many British fi rms and products. “About 70-80 per cent of our sales are exports,” she states, “and that has been interesting to me. The rest of the world valued the product more than the British. That was my light-bulb moment when I realised that we are actually very good at making things and are still held in high esteem throughout the world, but really not recognising that in our own country.”
Designing Demand is one way to get UK SMEs to recognise their own potential and re-imagine what they can offer the world. “I would like to think that the businesses that come out of this have that moment where they think: ‘I get why I should have done this. I know my business now.’” ■
18 | springboard | www.ukti.gov.uk