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Going global: what do SMEs need to do to tap into international markets?

Find out how one all-female SME on the Portuguese island of Madeira has successfully conquered the international stage.

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Going global: what do SMEs need to do to tap into international markets?

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This week, Business Planet travelled to Madeira to discuss export development. Only a few small businesses in Europe export their products or services beyond the EU. But studies show that international SMEs create more jobs and are more innovative than SMEs which only sell in their home country.

“We did some market research and we saw that there was room for the production and trade of an exceptional Madeira wine. We placed a subtle emphasis on the women of Madeira in order to attract a young and female audience.”

José António De Coito Pita
President, Funchal Agricultural Cooperative.

How can SMEs conquer new international markets

  • Only a few small businesses in Europe export their products or services beyond the EU. But studies show that international SMEs create more jobs and are more innovative than SMEs which only sell in their home country.
  • For a wine company based in Madeira, going international is a crucial part of its business. Madeira Vintners are an all-female team producing Madeira wine with a lower alcohol content (17%). Their aim is to attract women from all around the world and sell their high quality product globally.
  • The whole process – from liaising with the winegrowers, to the control and selection process, production and sales, is run by highly qualified women.
  • The project saw a 100% increase in sales between 2016 and 2017 and the wine has won several international competitions.
  • Madeira Vintners was started by the Funchal Agricultural Cooperative. It received EU funding though the regional development programme PRODERAM. It also took part in the 2017 edition of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards in the category “Supporting the Internationalisation of Business”.
  • The European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) reward organisations or projects in Europe that promote entrepreneurship and small business at the national, regional and local level.

For Madeira Vintners, going international was a crucial part of its business. The all-female team produces Madeira wine with a lower alcohol content (17%). Their aim is to attract women from all around the world and sell their high quality product globally.

The company is Madeira’s youngest wine brand and the first to be founded on the island in 80 years.

In a market dominated by men, Suzanne Pedro, Madeira Vintners CEO says: “The innovation comes from the team behind the project – which is exclusively women. There is also a lower amount of alcohol. The grapes are selected by hand and different varieties grown on the Porto Santo island are incorporated.”

To be classified as “Madeira”, the wine must age at least three years. The first vintage was marketed in 2016. Thanks to the Funchal cooperative’s network, it was an immediate success.

“Our sales doubled between 2016 and 2017, mainly thanks to high demand in the US. This year, we’re going to market our first wine, aged 5 years. It will be launched on the 8th March, women’s day,” Pedro says.

The initiative received two-thirds of its funding from Europe. It created six jobs and gave new sales opportunities to local winegrowers. The venture was also shortlisted for the final of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards, in the international category.

José António De Coito Pita, the President of Funchal’s Agricultural Cooperative, says the project should act as an inspiration to other SMEs looking to conquer the international market.

“If you have a good project, a good team and if you believe in it, if you’re supported by local and national institutions, if you master social networks, anything is possible. To succeed, you need to believe you are the best!”