Midlands manufacturer wins its first export sale to Africa

A West Midlands firm that specialises in designing and manufacturing flat roof support systems is on target to export one third of its goods every year after winning its first sales in Africa.

Strut Direct, which is based in Wednesbury, says that winning its first order for £129,000 to supply water treatment plants in Nigeria with its own-design cable containment products will help it to achieve its export growth goals.

Steve Richards, managing director and founder of the family-run business, says it is now planning to expand its market in Nigeria and also look to new sectors, such as waste water and power and utility areas. It also plans to start selling its StrutFoot range of flat roof systems in Africa next year.

Christine Hamilton, interim regional director of the Department for International Trade West Midlands, said:

“The West Midlands has a long and proud heritage of innovation and manufacturing and Strut Direct demonstrates that even a lack of language skills is no barrier to exporting success.”

The firm has worked with Marion Doherty, an international trade adviser (ITA) in the Department for International Trade team in the Black Country, for the past three years in an effort to grow the company’s international profile.

DIT training

With the department’s help, Steve completed an export training programme and has been put in touch with the Department for International Trade’s teams in France, Portugal, Netherlands and Germany following last year’s Explore Export event. He has also received support for a market visit to United Arab Emirates and is working to develop business as a result of the visit.

When he launched the company in 2000, he worked from a small shed in Great Barr. It is now based on a 1.4 acre site in Alma Street, where he employs 25 staff. Further growth is planned, with additional industrial units, two new apprentices and eight skilled staff.

Export plans

He is also setting his sights firmly on increasing the export market, having begun exporting in 2013.

He said:

“Our export business is growing to over 30% of our turnover and in the next 18 months we estimate that our growth to be £2-3 million on this year’s turnover, which is on target for £4.2m, our StrutFoot products are selling well in the European markets.

“Our international trade adviser and the support staff have been an invaluable help in us moving our export business forward. It makes a difference when you are dealing with people who have been hands on in the market place.”

Sales target

Strut Direct is on target for doubling its sales to £620,000 in its second year of trading with a company in France, while in Germany it has eight new projects, which could be worth as much as £250,000. If the sales go as the company expects, it could achieve more than £1,000,000 of growth by the end of 2017.

The Department for International Trade Midlands provides a huge amount of support to businesses, from language and culture masterclasses to eCommerce and from intellectual property to advice on export documentation and getting paid.

Any West Midlands company looking for similar support can visit www.exportingisgreat.gov.uk to search and apply for opportunities, access expert advice, trade services, training and events.