Small business: Export markets - Helen Thompson-Carter

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Helen Thompson-Carter, General Manager, of Kagi jewellery, a designer jewellery brand, owned and designed by Kat Gee

General Manager, of Kagi jewellery, Helen Thompson-Carter.
General Manager, of Kagi jewellery, Helen Thompson-Carter.

Kagi began in 2006 from Kat Gee's desire to create designer jewellery that was bold, simple and beautiful using real gemstones and real pearls. Kagi is now stocked in top destination stores across Australasia and its exports represent more than 50 per cent of the annual turnover.

Have you exported from the beginning?

No. We entered the Australian market around 2009-10. We have experienced significant growth in this market in the past 12 months - selling through approximately 180 retailers across all states of Australia.

What route have you used?

Distributors, selling direct, local partners or other routes?
We sell direct to retailers. In 2012, we joined the three key buying groups in the jewellery industry. We have proven to be a very successful brand and now hold the position of preferred supplier in all three groups. Different export markets require a different approach - what is working in Australia won't necessarily work in the USA or Europe.

Do you have any help on advice with currency hedging? Is this a concern given your strongest export markets?

We never take our eyes off the numbers.We work closely with the Foreign Exchange team at the ANZ to ensure we are well informed and buy currency at the right time, right price.Trading in different currencies is always a challenge and we certainly give it careful care and attention

What are your biggest concerns with exporting at the moment?

Keeping up with international demands and requests - we want to do it right and do it well. Not going beyond our means. As Bill Hopeha once said: "Fish your feet first..." - Australia is close, it is easy, they love our product, our brand and our people.

Identifying the next market and resourcing it.

Currency fluctuations and economic impact on markets

How do you market in your export markets?

We spend a lot of time in Australia - we see the retailers we sell to as an integral part of their business. We work closely with them to help them grow their business, which results in Kagi being in the top three brands in store. If you want to know what is happening in your export markets, you simply have to be there.

Our PR agency drives media attention and our full time team of four on the ground in Australia is rapidly spreading the Kagi word, and growing the Kagi retail network.
Kagi is a multichannel business :

What other countries would you like to go to?

USA, Singapore and Europe. We believe Kagi can be truly competitive internationally.

Any tips to companies new to exporting?

• Be prepared to travel and be in that market place, frequently.
• Do your homework - know where the opportunities are, know your markets well.
• Be in it for the long haul - results come from hard work and perseverance.
• Never take your eyes off the numbers.
• Value your home market - that is what feeds your entry into new export opportunities.
• Good help and advice is readily available - take it - Export NZ, NZ Trade and Enterprise are outstanding organisations - get involved.
• Surround yourself with a competent passionate team - people are everything, they make the difference, they keep the home fires burning.
• Exporting is a journey - love it!
• Get started, but don't forget to go home.


Next week, we take a look at the kind of flexible working arrangments SME owners are offering their staff and themselves in the current market. Surely a perk of running your own business is an opportunity to have more freedom on how you work and when and you should be offering this to your staff too. Tell us your stories.

- NZ Herald

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