Flaér on the road to global success
Cycling has a strong base in continental Europe so it made sense for Glasgow-based specialist bike company, Flaér, to set its sights on the market. Here's how they did it.
Flaér is a new company based in Milngavie, which launched in 2016 following the success of its parent company, Scottoiler. Flaer designs and manufactures products such as an innovative bicycle chain performance system.
Exploring overseas markets
“There is plenty of room for us to grow within the UK market, but actually there are so many benefits in exporting,” said managing director, Fiona Thomson. “Our products are of interest to people all over the world, so we have a global outlook in growth strategy.”
“Flaér’s product is all about improving performance for road racing bicycles. And the heart and soul of road racing is in Europe,” said Fiona.“We could choose to focus on the UK market, but it makes sense to take our product where it can have the most influence.”
Flaér’s system for road-bikes, the Revo Via chain performance system is being used by the Orica-Scott team at professional cycling events all over the world and was used in key races such as the Giro D’Italia and Paris-Roubaix this season.
Launch at Eurobike
Fiona sees Europe as such a key market that last year – undeterred by Brexit – she decided to launch a new high-performance product range at the world’s largest B2B cycling event, Eurobike.
She said, “Quite simply it was the logical place for us to introduce our new brand as it is the one show that people come to from all over the world. Europeans, Americans and Asians are all there.”
Fiona and her colleagues had previously attended Eurobike as part of the Scottish Development International (SDI) pavilion, and had also benefitted from trips to a number of events which helped them develop market knowledge and forge the right connections.
“These events are expensive to attend, so it helps that there is funding support available,” she said.
Get set. Connect. Go global.
“With the help and advice from SDI we went to Eurobike well-prepared. We had meetings set up in advance with potential partners and with the press.
“However, the most valuable connections came about as delegates came up to visit our stand. We made important connections that led to business in Europe, but also large contracts elsewhere in the world.”
First the motorbike, then the bicycle
Flaér’s positive attitude to exporting grows out of the experience of its parent company Scottoiler, which manufactures a chain lubricating system for motorbikes. Scottoiler launched 30 years ago as a small engineering company.
Fiona explains, “Motorbike enthusiasts who experienced our product really did a lot of our marketing for us and we have exported products to 46 different countries.”
By the time of the 2008 recession, 40% of Scottoiler’s business was in Germany. “It was the German business that helped Scottoiler survive the downturn.
There’s nothing to stop you exporting. It’s not an impossible thing to do. If you're Scottish company with a good product that people want, you will find a way to make it work. There’s also great advice available from Scottish Enterprise, so go and ask for help.
Fiona Thomson, managing director, Flaér
“That experience was an important piece of learning. Exporting helps to spread the risk for a company like ours. The benefits far outweigh any challenges connected with export paperwork.”
“Brexit won’t change our approach”
Fiona is clear that Europe will continue to be a priority market for Flaér.
“We already export all over the world and will continue to do so. If the legislation to do with exporting to Europe changes bit by bit then we will simply find out what we need to do to continue to export.”
Fiona’s top tips for exporting to Europe
Paperwork – “Export paperwork needs to be completed, but it is simply a case of putting in the time and effort to find out what you need to know.”
Language – “Because the German market is so important we have two native speakers on our staff. We believe that friendly, human customer service is vitally important, so that means being able to converse in the right language. Elsewhere we use distributors to help with translation, but for Germany it is important enough to have those skills in house.”
Culture – “Different countries have different interests. We have found the German market, with its focus on engineering excellence and efficiency, to be relevant for us.”
Ready to explore what Europe has to offer your business?
Get started with our beginner's guide to selling into the EU