Kong Climbing at Threlkeld has been manufacturing and installing climbing walls for almost 25 years. Launched by Paul Cornforth, a keen climber, it also operates a climbing centre in Keswick – Kong Adventure – and a retail outlet, Kong Running. These businesses employ 26 people and have a combined turnover of £2.3m.
Paul has made good use of the Growth Hub. His Growth Hub adviser helped secure a £95000 Cumbria Growth Fund grant in 2016, which enabled Kong Climbing to double the size of its workshops. It was around this time that Kong Climbing became an exporter.
“We received an enquiry from Gibraltar,” Paul said. “We hadn’t been looking to export but they found us on Google. It made us realise that there was a huge global market for our products. There are only two other climbing wall manufacturers in the UK.”
Through the Growth Hub, he began working with an international trade adviser from the Department for International Trade (DIT).
Paul said: “She sat down with us and worked out a list of countries we wanted to export to. We identified the Middle East as a lucrative market.
“She went through all the basics including the freight side, how we were going to get paid and in what currency. And she helped us get our website translated. We now have landing pages in Arabic, French and Spanish.”
Get advice before you sign on the dotted line,” he said. “Advice is readily available. All the DIT advisers we have had have been incredibly helpful. The important thing is to make sure you get things, such as contract paperwork, right first time to avoid unnecessary delays and costs.
DIT arranged for Paul to go on a course to learn about the business culture in the Middle East.
He said: “That was really useful. Doing business there is different from the UK. In the UK you go to a potential customer and talk business straight way. In the Middle East the first meeting is all about establishing trust. It takes longer to get an order to fruition.”
To date Kong Climbing has installed climbing walls in the United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Denmark and the Republic of Ireland. Paul’s top tip for would-be exporters is a simple one.
“Get advice before you sign on the dotted line,” he said. “Advice is readily available. All the DIT advisers we have had have been incredibly helpful. The important thing is to make sure you get things, such as contract paperwork, right first time to avoid unnecessary delays and costs.”
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