Look to Latin America, firms are urged

Latin America remains an untapped market for Yorkshire's exporters and the region needs to do more to raise its profile, according to a Uruguayan business expert.
Uruguayan business expert. 
Gabriela Castro-FontouraUruguayan business expert. 
Gabriela Castro-Fontoura
Uruguayan business expert. Gabriela Castro-Fontoura

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura said that places like London, Manchester and Liverpool were recognised but not Yorkshire.

Ms Castro-Fontoura was visiting Leeds to talk about the export opportunities other parts of Latin America away from Brazil offer to companies in this region.

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She said: “Every sector is booming in Latin America and everyone wants products and services from Yorkshire firms.

“Latin America loves brand Britain – the UK represents quality. London is recognised and Manchester and Liverpool are both known because of their football teams.

“There is no real awareness of Yorkshire and a huge lack of knowledge about what the region can offer.

“However, that is an advantage. Yorkshire can create the brand it wants and that is an incredible opportunity in a market that is hungry for your products and services.”

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Ms Castro-Fontoura’s comments came at an international trade event in Leeds at Shulmans Solicitors. The event featured leading experts and exporters from across Yorkshire.

Gordon MacRae, special projects manager at Sheffield-based manufacturing business Gripple, also spoke at the event.

He said the only way to succeed was to fully understand the market by getting out there.

Mr MacRae said: “We call it the backpack strategy. You have to get on the ground and get your feet dirty to understand what the opportunities will be and how you can win them.

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“We’ve now got five people in Latin America creating millions in business for us.”

Sharon Ratcliffe, commercial manager at PBS International, a technical fabric manufacturer based in Scarborough, also spoke at the event.

She said: “To say you have to be persistent is an understatement. You have to be willing to invest and stick at it. It has taken us five years to get a return, but the rewards are worth it.”

The expert panel said 12 years of growth across the continent had created a huge demand for British products but warned businesses needed a long-term and focussed strategy.

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Ms Castro-Fontoura said:“You will only win business in Latin America if you have a long-term vision, long-term investment and a clear strategy.

“Latin America is a continent, not a country and you need to treat every one of the 20 countries differently.

“Be strategic. Look for the demand and then focus on one country.

“You can then use that as a base to target other countries.

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“If you don’t succeed in one country, don’t give up as you will find a market for your product or service in another.”

International law specialist Rob Lucas, a partner at Shulmans, also sat on the panel.

He said that IP can be protected in Latin America in much the same way as it can in the UK, but warned that exporters needed to treat every country differently and would need protection in each.

“Businesses must remember that it is 20 different countries and you can’t just adopt a blanket approach to Latin America – either with your strategy or in the way you protect your IP,” he said.

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The panel event was chaired by Shulmans senior partner and head of international, Jeremy Shulman.

Seeking sunnier Latin skies

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura runs an organisation called Sunny Sky Solutions. It specialises in supporting UK firms win Latin American deals.

Ms Castro-Fontoura, who lives in Uruguay, has been working with British businesses for 13 years.

She works with businesses to develop strategy, help them communicate their offer, find leads, organise visits and secure deals with Latin American partners.

The business expert has also written an ebook called The SME guide to Latin America, which provides guidance on developing a successful export strategy.