The Absolute Collage story: a Wolverhampton skincare brand taking on the world

From Brompton Bicycles to The Cambridge Satchel Company, Britain has a long legacy of globally successful, kitchen table businesses. A new name to add to this ever-growing list is Absolute Collagen, a company specialising in ‘drinkable skincare’.

Founded by first-time entrepreneur Maxine Laceby, Absolute Collagen has taken the beauty world by storm. With features in Hello, GQ and The Guardian (to name a few), it’s hard to believe the company began life in Maxine’s kitchen in Wolverhampton.

A passion for skincare, transformed into a business
After hanging up her school-run keys for good, Maxine was inspired to explore her passion for skincare. To her children’s horror, she began boiling up chicken feet and pig’s trotters in her kitchen to make bone broth that contained collagen.

As the main structural protein in the human body, collagen acts as a powerful anti-aging ingredient. It’s also said to help with everything from joint pain to digestive issues. After drinking bone broth every day, Maxine was delighted with the appearance of her skin, hair and nails.

Inspired by the discovery, she sourced professional facilities and manufacturers, and began to develop a formula using hydrolysed marine collagen – the purest form of collagen. High in essential and non-essential amino acids, Maxine realised this type of collagen could rejuvenate the skin with one tiny daily dose. Perfect for skincare enthusiasts on the go.

Finding a niche in the world of beauty
With the market already oversaturated with supplements and ‘wonder cures’, Maxine knew Absolute Collagen had to be different.

She positioned her products at super-busy women like herself, developing 10ml sachets of powder which could be taken anywhere, at any time of day. Unlike supplements, Maxine’s ‘drinkable skincare’ could be added to tea, water or even stirred into yoghurt and porridge.

Along with her army of ‘Absoluters’, Maxine launched Absolute Collagen at Beauty UK – the biggest beauty trade fair in the UK. It was this post-launch success that led to Maxine meeting two new ‘Absoluters’ Jayne and Katy, who soon became her dream marketing team.

Establishing millions of customers all over the world
Since launching Absolute Collagen and Absolute Collagen for Men, the site has been inundated with glowing reviews. It’s the impact Absolute Collagen has on real people that’s inspired Maxine to share her formula with customers all over the world.

By working with DIT, Maxine is now exploring the best international markets for Absolute Collagen and is ready to take her first steps towards going global.

Start your journey today
If you’re cooking up something in the kitchen or tinkering with a prototype in your garden shed, you may not realise you’re eligible for support with exporting. Get in touch with our team for bespoke support and advice on selling your products internationally.

T: 0345 222 0159

With British exports predicted to be worth £1 trillion per year by 2020, now is the perfect time to start selling your products abroad. But for many business owners, common myths about exporting prevent them from reaching their global potential.

From increasing your profits to creating more jobs within your local economy, there’s so much to gain from exporting. But if you’re worrying about language barriers or having sleepless nights over shipping, we’re here to help.

In this blog post, we’re going to bust the myths we hear from businesses every day. Whether you’ve lost your exporting mojo or don’t know where to start, these are the things you definitely shouldn’t be worrying about.

“Exporting can be risky”
Selling abroad is no more risky than selling within the UK. Like any strategic move you make, exporting simply requires thorough research and careful planning. Most risks can be identified and reduced by using proper documentation for each stage of the process – your local Chamber of Commerce can help you with this.

“I’m too small to go global”
Exporting isn’t just for big-name brands – SMEs are conquering the globe at a rapid rate. Thanks to grant aid and crowdfunding, finance doesn’t have to be a roadblock for SMEs wanting to expand their operations. We have funding available to eligible SMEs through our ERDF SME International Growth Pproject, find out more by attending one of our free drop in clinics.

“Business is booming, I don’t need to export”
Your accountant’s happy, your social media accounts are growing and your team are rushed off their feet. What’s the point in exporting when things are great the way they are?

The truth is, we live in an increasingly globalised world – and no market remains static forever. Exporting increases your sales potential and your profits, helping to secure your business for years to come. An initial investment now could mean earning your spot within a global marketplace forever.

“I can’t export if I don’t know the language or customs”
You’re right. Shaking hands on a deal in the USA is totally different from doing business in Brazil. Luckily, our team of expert advisers can help you navigate the tricky world of etiquette and customs.

We’ve hosted sushi suppers for businesses interested in Japan and trips to France for those hoping to see their products in Paris. We also host regular business culture workshops so you can get to grips with the culture in your chosen market before you hop on the plane.

“Exporting is just too complicated”
This is the the biggest misconception of them all. When businesses get in contact with us, they usually imagine stacks of paperwork and long days of faff laying in wait for them.

From choosing the right markets to learning about different embassies, we admit that exporting can feel complicated at first. But it doesn’t have to be. Our dedicated team of International Trade Advisers will be there every step of the way.

From our very first meeting with you, we’ll help you to research markets, find buyers and offer advice on logistics. Your exporting journey could start with a phone call today – get in touch.

Businesses are exporting more goods abroad across every region of the UK. This means more fantastic products are making their way around the world – including those that are on the unusual side. In this blog post, we reveal five UK-made products that you’d never guess were popular across the globe.

Cream for udders

Uddermint specialises in producing high quality pure mint oil, blended into a non-greasy, quick-absorbing udder cream. This soothing cream helps to soften cows’ udders, making life more comfortable for cows during milking time and improving milk production. And it isn’t just British farmers enjoying the benefits of Uddermint.

From its headquarters in Worcestershire, Uddermint products get shipped as far afield as Canada. Talk about ‘pastures’ new.

Retro trailers

The ‘street food’ trend has exploded over the last couple of years. A vintage aluminium trailer is the natural choice for street food vendors, but they aren’t typically equipped to carry bulky catering equipment. That’s where Revival Trailers come in.

This small team of craftsmen handbuild retro-style trailers that are designed with the heaviest cooking equipment in mind. You’ll find their signature silver trailers at foodie events all over the world.


Marisa and Kat, owners of PomPom Galore, are on a mission to ‘spread the love, one pompom at a time’. After finding fame in The Sunday Times and Tatler, Marisa and Kat decided to take their venture global. Their range of fairy lights, garlands and stationery proves that pompoms aren’t just for the top of your woolly hat – they look amazing anywhere.

Bar O2 supplies oxygen systems to home care providers, dentists, GPs, hospitals and emergency services across Britain. But that isn’t all they do. From their Staffordshire-based distribution hub, the family business supplies fully staffed and equipped oxygen bars to event organisers in Europe, Scandinavia, Africa and Asia.

Horse semen
Whitchurch is a marketing town in Shropshire. It’s home to the most advanced equine breeding facilities and semen processing laboratory in Europe: Stallion AI.

The business has completed over 10,000 collections of horse semen, which is then sent around the world to breed the next generation of premium race horses.

Can we help you with your unusual product?

We’ve helped all these businesses export to the international markets that are right for them – and now we want to help you. Whether your product is wacky or wonderful, talk to our team about going global this year.

Exporting is an exciting time for your business, but it can also feel a little daunting. That’s why we’re hosting one-to-one export clinics every two weeks to help local companies like yours go global. And if that’s not enough, it’s one hundred percent free to attend. Here’s why you should book your 40 minute session today:

1. Explore the benefits of exporting
We’ve got stacks of stats and bags of research we’re just itching to share with you. We’ll run you through the process from start to finish and tell you the practical ways exporting can strengthen your business.

2. Tackle the fiddly bits

Don’t let fear of paperwork put you off selling internationally. Instead, use your drop in session to drill down into the details. Get advice on documentation, logistics and local freight forwarders, and feel confident taking those next steps.

3. Speak to the experts

Our team of International Trade Advisers really know their stuff. During the session, they’ll take some time to get to know you and your business so they can help you achieve your goals. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re ready to expand your international operations, they’ll help you find a solution that works.

4. Join our global network
Our network of embassies and consulates is an essential resource for any exporter. We’ll teach you how to maximise these contacts and use them to increase your market knowledge, presence and sales.

5. Get the support you need
From financial grants to workshops, sometimes you need a helping hand to get where you want to be. That’s why we’ll spend some of your session explaining the different types of support and services that are offered to exporting businesses by the government.

Take your first steps today
Whatever your goals, our team can help your business reach its full potential – all it takes is 40 minutes. To attend your free session with us, register your interest here.

A series of masterclasses aimed at getting West Midlands businesses confident enough to export their goods and services is being launched in

Funded by ERDF SME International Growth Project and organised by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, the three half-day masterclasses take place in the city centre and will be headed by a specialist trainer in international business strategies. There is no cost to eligible businesses attending.

The first takes place on April 19 and will focus on how to increase export sales. It will include techniques on how to upsell to existing international clients, how to identify new markets and build brand awareness, as well as mitigating risks and using a range of channels to sell.

The second takes place on May 22 and will examine how companies can pitch their business to an international audience, looking at business style, culture and market, using the Export Opportunities platform, and how to make the most of Department for International Trade networks and overseas contacts.

The third masterclass on May 10 is about the eight steps to successful international negotiation skills, planning and how to improve the outcome of negotiations.

Patrick McCarron, Business Development Manager at the Department for International Trade, said: “More often than not, businesses need a guiding hand when it comes to having a strategic plan for export growth because there’s a step up from being reactive when an enquiry comes in from really planning to grow the business’s overseas markets.

“Our masterclasses can put businesses on the right path towards exporting, give them the confidence they need and also provide vital information on where they can get DIT support.”

Eligible businesses can sign up for the masterclasses relevant to their needs and the sessions will be hosted by Richard Jeffrey, of Business Navigators, at KPMG, at One Snowhill, Snowhill Queensway, Birmingham.

For further details and to book, visit


In the quaint village of Canon Pyon, Herefordshire, is a family-owned business that has found global success with its innovative products. Gill and Alan Dickson and their sons run Pyon Products – a company specialising in products that keep newborn calves and lambs warm and safe.

The company is now four years old, but co-founder Alan says: “In the last two years we seem to be really motoring forward.” The key to Pyon Products’ newfound success? Exporting.

The brainwave that helped create Heatwave
Gill and Alan have worked successfully in the animal health and nutrition industry for over 25 years. They set up Pyon Products after a kitchen table discussion about the difficulties of rearing calves in cold weather.

Having looked after thousands of calves, Gill saw the evidence first hand to suggest that a diet of warm milk in the first eight weeks of a calf’s life is highly beneficial. She also found research from Northern Europe and America that suggested warm milk in particular ‘switches on’ genes that protect against disease.

Inspired by the family discussion, eldest son James (a mechanical engineer and product designer) worked with Cotswold Dairy Equipment to design Heatwave. A simple, reliable machine that can be used all year round to convert cold milk into warm on demand. Perfect for a newborn calf.

The product launch that led to global success

In 2015 the Heatwave milk warmer was launched, winning the RABDF Livestock Machinery & Equipment award. The success around their first product led to them developing solutions for other common farming problems.

Following this success, Gill and Alan saw a demand for a good hygienic product to warm up hypothermic lambs. Inspired by their time rearing pedigree sheep in the 1990s, the family then developed the Frisky Lamb Warmer.

Soon they were getting enquiries from international farmers, which led Alan to the DIT website. He says: “When we saw the DIT website, we knew straightaway there was potential there.”

Next stop New Zealand, then the world
From Sweden to Australia, the Pyon Products range can be found across the world and this year the team are excited to be heading to New Zealand.

Alan says: “Quite simply, without the support of DIT and grant aid, we wouldn’t be going to New Zealand to launch our products and scope out distributors. DIT’s programme helped us to identify the easiest markets to tackle. Because of this, 25% of our business now comes from exports.”

Pyon’s advice for future exporters
Alan and Gill’s advice for business owners starting their export journey is simple – pick up the phone and talk to DIT. Alan says: “It’s great to have someone in the background you can ring up for advice. Just knowing you’re getting the right information and you’re on the right track is very helpful.”

Are you inspired to go global?
From a chat around the kitchen table to launching their product globally, Pyon Products’ journey shows that exporting can work for every type of business. To get advice on selling your products internationally, get in touch with our friendly team.

T: 0345 222 0159

Its unique computer firing system means that the sky truly is the limit when it comes to visual effects. Most notably, Merlin has created firework ‘chases’ across Sydney Harbour Bridge and the London Eye.

A night to remember
Andy, John and Rob certainly started their business off with a bang. Shortly after Merlin Fireworks was born, the team found themselves on the banks of the River Thames, operating part of the United Kingdom’s biggest ever display for the eve of the Millennium.

This huge statement catapulted the business to new heights, where Merlin has enjoyed success ever since. Recently, the team has helped Cardiff celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday and provided a New Year’s Eve countdown display for over 200,000 residents of Lagos, Nigeria.

British quality with global appeal
From Chinese New Year to Eid, fireworks are the centrepiece for celebrations across the world – making it the natural next step for Merlin to begin exporting. Merlin’s signature colour, sound and sheer spectacle can be found at events in:

Saudi Arabia
Hong Kong
United Arab Emirates

And with the list continuing to grow, it’s safe to say that where there’s a celebration, you’ll find Merlin Fireworks.

Has Merlin’s story sparked your imagination?
Exporting really is for everyone, no matter how specialist or niche your products are. If your year has started with a fizzle rather than a bang, get in touch with our team for bespoke support and advice on going global.

T: 0345 222 0159

If you’re looking to internationalise your business or want to expand your exporting horizons this year, help is at hand from the SME International Growth Project. This project is delivered by West Midlands Chamber of Commerce (WMCC) funded through ERDF. Ideal for West Midlands businesses, the project offers financial support to help you grow your export programmes and trade overseas.

Here’s how the project can help you make 2018 the year you go global.

More funding for more businesses

The West Midlands SME International Growth Project (SME IGP) has already approved more than 150 grants worth more than £340,000 to over 80 companies in the region, enabling them to access specialist support.

Now, a further £300,000 in funding is being made available to eligible companies in the West Midlands region, including:

Specialist support to help businesses grow

Allen Matty, managing director of WMCC, believes the scheme offers a unique opportunity to small businesses that need a helping hand to start exporting.

“This scheme aims to stimulate export growth within the region by addressing business needs and providing financial support,” he said. “Internationalising a business is a significant step and by accessing specialist support, companies can minimise the risks and gain the knowledge and confidence they need to move into new overseas markets.”

The available support from SME IGP includes:

Start your journey today

To explore your options with the SME International Growth Project, get in touch with an International Trade Adviser on:


Call: 0121 607 1770

Exporting isn’t all car parts and medical supplies. And it isn’t just for big brands – there’s plenty of room for the niche, the unexpected and the wonderfully weird. From beer to boxing gloves, distinctive British products are sought after all over the world. Here are just 10 unusual export opportunities waiting for a British business to snap them up.

  1. Baked beans

You know them as a classic British delicacy that’s best served on toast, but it isn’t just the UK that has an appetite for baked beans. A food retailer in Turkey is looking to stock up on the hearty snack, alongside its existing range of jams, coffee, teas, oils and honey.

  1. Jam

Another quintessentially British foodstuff, jam is the cornerstone of every good afternoon tea. Quality British jams are wanted across the globe, particularly in countries such as Thailand. But Thailand’s appetite for sweet stuff doesn’t end there, as it’s also looking for a supplier of sugar-free chocolate.

  1. Chlorine

When you take a dip in the pool on your next Grecian getaway, the chlorine keeping it clean might be from right here in the UK. The Greek government is currently looking for a supplier for 800 tonnes of chlorine. That should be enough to keep the pools in those stunning resorts looking beautiful all year round.

  1. Non-alcoholic beer

The biggest global demand is often for products you’d never think of. Non-alcoholic beer is immensely popular in countries such as India, making it one of our most common export opportunities. Currently, a company in India is looking for a non-alcoholic beer supplier with access to brands such as Carlsberg and Heineken. Cheers!

  1. Furniture for train interiors

Taking exporting to a whole new level of niche, a company in Hong Kong is looking for furniture to go inside the carriages of 77 trains. The rail operator is in need of quality cushions and carpets that meet the fire requirements of both British and European standards. All that’s missing is Poirot and a good murder mystery plot.

  1. Glittery lipgloss and neon hairspray

As home to the legacy of Mary Quant, Liz Earle and Rimmel London, it’s no surprise there’s a global demand for British beauty products. Right now, a prominent Indonesian health and beauty retailer is looking for lip gloss, eyeshadow and hair-colouring spray – all from the UK.

  1. Surveillance systems for wild animals

A security system integrator in Slovakia is looking for a surveillance system supplier. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But this isn’t just any system – it’s needed to notify drivers about wild animals.

  1. Electronic boxing gloves

Ever fancied helping to train the next Anthony Joshua? A sports culture company in China is looking for a British supplier of electronic boxing gloves. This type of technology uses Bluetooth to connect the gloves to a device and tells you how fast and hard you’re punching. The idea is to take the guesswork out of boxing training or feature in virtual reality games.

  1. Book paper

From Penguin to Bloomsbury (and a certain Ms Rowling), we’re known the world over for our rich, literary heritage. But it isn’t just our authors who are in demand – it’s our paper too.

A production unit in the Philippines is looking for a company to supply and deliver book paper. Their current budget to buy the paper (which must be Class A, wood-free paper) is £268,620.82. We think this means the phrase ‘not worth the paper it’s printed on’ can officially be abandoned.  

  1. Pet products

It isn’t just the British public that likes to pamper their pets. If you make the comfiest dog beds or chew toys that keep pooches occupied for hours, your products are needed in almost every country you can think of.

Companies in both Taiwan and the Czech Republic are currently looking for supplies that are perfect for dogs, cats and other small animals. Sounds like a ‘pawsome’ opportunity to us.

Are you a weird and wonderful business who can tackle these tasks?

If any of these opportunities sound like a job for you, you can apply by following the links above. You’ll find these opportunities and thousands more at  

If you need any support in submitting your application or would like to learn more about doing business in a particular market, get in touch with our super helpful trade team on:


T: 0345 222 0159

Do you work in the life sciences sector? If you are interested in taking your products to new markets in the Gulf, a Midlands Engine-organised visit may benefit you.Life-Sciences_edited-1

More than 20 buyers from United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait are visiting the Midlands this month (March 2018), all of whom are looking to strengthen business ties with life science companies based in the region.

The Midlands Engine region is home to more than 1,000 life science companies and over the past five years, UK delegations have visited Arab Health making strong connections and reinforcing our trade commitments between the two countries.

As part of the three-day visit to the Midlands, cutting-edge companies from across the region will be able to set up one-to-one meetings with the buyers at a Meet the Supplier event on 21 March. The event is being hosted by Simon Hall, Director Exports & Investment Midlands Engine, Department for International Trade and will take place at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry.

“Life sciences is a huge sector for the Midlands, where there’s a range of pioneering science work taking place in centres for clinical excellence and universities,” said Simon. “This visit is a great opportunity for businesses to introduce their products to buyers who are actively seeking products and services that will benefit their markets.”

Businesses in the life sciences sector can view more information about the buyers and sign up to attend at