Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 15.15.52Country Durham business, Special iApps, which develops educational apps for children with special educational needs, such as Down’s syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy, is one of 10 exciting British SMEs who have been shortlisted from over 400 businesses for the inaugural government-backed Open to Export Action Plan Competition.

Each company will present the Action Plans they created using Open to Export’s innovative digital business planning tool to a panel of expert judges for the chance to win £3,000 funding – and additional benefits – towards their international growth.

Open to Export has been set up by the government as a digital route to boost the UK’s SME exports. The Export Action Plan is the latest addition to its online offering, which is dedicated to helping new and inexperienced businesses prepare to sell overseas by giving them free access to online information, support and advice.

Using the tool allows businesses to take ownership of their export strategies, making decisions along each step of their international trade journey – from selecting a market to delivering products or services to new customers.

The Export Action Plan Competition sees the first adopters of the exciting new tool vying to win £3000 cash funding to implement their plans. Out of the 400+ businesses to have already started used it, a shortlisted 10 companies has been invited to present their plans to a panel of expert judges on January 20th, in London, seeking to convince them that their business would benefit most from the prize.

Founder and CEO Beverley Dean at Special iApps, which employs three people, said: “Trading globally presents a wealth of opportunities and the Export Action Plan has been an excellent and easy resource to get us started. It’s tremendous to be shortlisted and we’re looking forward to presenting our vision and plan at the competition.”

It is sure to be an exciting day as an eclectic bunch of businesses, including brewers, educational gift-makers, app makers and tool distributors battle it out to become the first Export Action Plan Competition winner.

Julian Hucker, Open to Export chairman and successful tech entrepreneur, said:  “Our commitment to help new exporters to broaden their horizons will include a quarterly competition, sponsored by International Festival for Business 2016. A panel of experts will judge the finalists based on the potential and feasibility of their export plans, awarding a cash sum of £3000, together with additional support from UKTI and other partners, to help the winning business implement their plans.”

The judging panel draws together a vast amount of business and international trade experience. Julian will be joined by Open to Export chief executive Lesley Batchelor OBE, Head of International at the International Festival for Business 2016 Chris Heyes, and Victoria Eggs – a small business owner whose exports have grown significantly since being a finalist at a previous Open to Export competition in 2013.

The competition is sponsored by the International Festival for Business 2016, HSBC and the Institute of Export – threeorganisations dedicated to contributing to the UK economy by doing their bit to help more new and inexperienced exporters to thrive internationally.

Mark Emmerson, HSBC UK Head of Global Trade & Receivables Finance added: “HSBC has been connecting businesses to overseas opportunities for over 150 years. I am therefore delighted that Open to Export has developed this simple and practical tool for small businesses to use when entering new markets for the first time.”

The winner will be presented with £3000 cash funding, free entry to the International Festival of Business in 2016 and two free places on an Institute of Export public training course.

Each of the 10 shortlisted companies will also win a year’s free small business membership with the Institute of Export and a year’s free membership with the Great British Store.