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The World is Becoming a Much Smaller Place (Posted by Jacob Hill)

Tue, 04 February 2014

Not so long ago, there was a time when the thought of selling/buying a product from overseas was a load of red tape, high costs, a language barrier, and nothing more.
Thankfully, now it can be done from your bedroom with just a laptop and Internet connection; that’s how I built my lazy tent empire and if I can do it, you can too.
 
When I was 19, I had the idea of packaging all the camping gear you’d need to go to a music festival (after a soggy weekend at one myself). I had very little funding, a broken laptop and a sack full of ambition and determination to get this concept off the ground. Like any product-based business, I actually needed some product, otherwise I would have had a hard time selling thin air. I heard about a website called Alibaba and immediately started looking for suppliers for all the different components of my package and sure enough, a couple of months later, they turned up on my doorstep. Little did I know that I had been sold some duff tents, which wouldn’t erect properly – how annoying!
 
It took me, my family, and some close friends seven days to unpack, restitch and repack 500 tents – it was a costly and time-consuming error but we learned from it. It wasn’t until this unfortunate event that I found one of my dad’s close friends in the pub runs a business, which has been importing and exporting goods for over 15 years. Now our Finance and Operations Director, Colin, is one of the best things to happen to The Lazy Camper.
 
Exporting is a whole different ballgame to importing, and whilst the benefits are extraordinary, it doesn’t come without its pitfalls.
 
The Lazy Camper has successfully sent products to America, Belgium, and Germany and has received pre-orders from places as far as Poland, South Korea, and even Australia. This all came about as our brand rocketed to popularity through partnering with the UK’s largest music festival, V Festival.
 
And what did we need to do it? A reliable courier, a simple website and some awesome customer service – there is no need for anything else, no special permission off governments, no advanced infrastructure, and certainly no need to be open 24 hours a day (excluding a website running constantly).
 
One of our festival partners Festicket.co.uk, offered The Lazy Camper to 50 of their customers who were going to a popular festival in Belgium and, amazingly, they all took the offer and we had a fun problem of getting two pallets worth of tents over the Channel. Surprisingly, it was relatively easy. After speaking to our courier, they advised us that there are no taxes to send between Europe and we only had to pay the transport fee. With hundreds of pallets making this journey every day, the cost was minimal and we were on to a winner.
 
Governments love exporting goods from their country, it means more cash is coming in to their economy from someone else’s, which ultimately reduces the deficit. Sending some of our packages to America was a little more complex, but easily managed thanks to DHL.
 
We told DHL where the products needed to go and they gave us a price and advised us of the tax we would have to pay on sending these goods across the pond. Agreeing on the amounts, DHL took the goods and invoiced us 30 days later for the freight and the taxes – they literally sorted everything and it meant this bedroom enterprise could keep growing without having to pay extortionate fees consulting experts. The help is out there, you’ve just got to ask for it!
 
Coincidentally, as I write this I am sitting with a cup of Joe and a stomach full of waffles, bacon, and eggs in a diner in South Carolina on a government-funded United Kingdom Trade and Investments (UKTI) mission spotting out opportunities to move The Lazy Camper stateside. This is just another way in which our country is supporting entrepreneurs to get their goods overseas. I heard about this opportunity through my local Chamber of Commerce (mycci.co.uk) – you can find your nearest one by doing a quick Google search.
 
Whilst I am out here, I will be meeting two Chambers of Commerce, sharing my story at the University of South Carolina and, obviously, taking in the views. The scheme works by offering £500 towards travel costs to businesses that are ready to export in an effort to help them get into their desired market. The scheme then offers different amounts for future trips depending on the success of the first mission.
 
So, as I sign off, I want to leave you with three key points to consider when taking your business overseas, be it looking to import or export.
  1. Always do a quality check – ESPECIALLY if it’s your first time with that supplier. There are quality surveyors in all corners of the world and you can get someone to check all your products for a few hundred dollars, which will save you money in the long run and keep your suppliers on their toes.
  2. Make your brand international from day one. Don’t be afraid to strive to be bigger –  check how much it would cost to take your goods overseas, make it an option on your website and be willing to take calls at all times of the day. It could be the difference between profit and loss.
  3. Take every opportunity possible and put yourself in a place where luck can strike and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Finally, if you want to chat about starting a business, getting your business ready for export or even the weather, get in touch via twitter @TheLazyJacob or email: Jacob@thelazycamper.co.uk 
 

About Jacob Hill (Founder of The Lazy Camper)

Jacob launched The Lazy Camper when he was 19 years old after a frustrating (and rather wet) experience at Leeds Festival in 2011. Making a stand against expensive and poor quality camping equipment, Jacob now supplies camping equipment to thousands of festival goers and campers across the UK. With their own office and three members of staff, The Lazy Camper is now also a proud campsite owner for the Tour de France’s visit to Yorkshire.
 
As a finalist for Shell LiveWIRE’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2013, Jacob is currently visiting South Carolina for two weeks on a UK Trade and Investments (UKTI) funded mission to explore opportunities for his innovative all-in-one camping package. He is also in his final year at the University of Huddersfield, studying for a degree in Enterprise Development, a course mentored by Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis.
 
You can follow him on Twitter @TheLazyJacob
 

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