Small business: Export markets - Geoff Blackwell

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Geoff Blackwell, CEO PQ Blackwell on his experiences with exporting

Geoff Blackwell, CEO PQ Blackwell.
Geoff Blackwell, CEO PQ Blackwell.

PQ Blackwell is based is in the old white church on Symonds St just down from Grafton Bridge. It is an award-winning book publishing company founded on originating best-selling illustrated books for many of the world's leading publishers. Its books sell in 50 countries, working with authors including Nelson Mandela on Conversations With Myself, a book founded on his personal papers and journals released in 33 languages. PQ Blackwell recently launched a high-end print on -demand photo book business, MILK Tailor Made Books, founded on two brands: MILK Books, and Moleskine Photo Books, which it operates under an exclusive world license from the renowned Italian notebook makers.

What are your main export markets?

Over 90 per cent of our sales come from outside New Zealand. Our main markets are North America, UK, Europe and Australia.

Have you exported from the beginning?

Yes, our publishing business was founded on a plan to originate world-class books in New Zealand and to sell them to publishers and booksellers around the world. MILK was also conceived as a global project with plans for multi-language sites and multiple production facilities well underway.

What are the advantages of exporting online?

The great advantage of export is obviously the increased size of our potential customer base. We deal with consumers directly and communicate with them in any way that is convenient to them, but usually via email and social media. This brings all sorts of logistical complexity but the prize is large if we can master the myriad of issues and challenges that go with seeking to create unique and high quality service and products that compete with, and hopefully surpass, those of much wealthier overseas competitors.

Do you have any help on advice with currency hedging?

We mainly sell and pay for our books in US dollars so we have a natural hedge. That said, I certainly feel better about the way the NZ/US exchange rate is currently trending. It was a long and painful road from .50 to .86.

How do you market in your export markets?

Many different ways but particularly via partnerships with influential companies and organisations that share our values and ideas.

Tips

• Exporting is a brilliant adventure full of opportunity if you are willing to be resourceful, determined and ambitious.

• Be prepared to travel and learn. Take opportunities and try like hell to over-deliver on your promises. Good work never goes unrewarded.


Next week, we will continue to discuss the whys and wherefores of exporting. Let us know what information would be of interest to you and we will search out the experts who can help. We might look in more depth at currency hedging which would be relevant in the current roller coast environment. Let us know where you need help.

- NZ Herald

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