Manuscript Pen Company, one of the world’s leading specialists in the development and production of fine fountain and dip pen calligraphy, has diversified its product range with the aim of doubling its export to North America.

A family-owned business, it now employs 35 people and has ambitious plans to grow its writing and calligraphy business, as well as its luxury decorative range of seals and wax gift sets, all with a specific focus on the North American market.

With a new Commercial Director on board, its focus has been on diversifying and increasing its share of the decorative and craft sector, and although it already exports 15 per cent of its business to the US, it is looking to significantly increase this figure.

Following the acquisition in 2004 of the high quality giftware company, Stuart Houghton, Manuscript started distributing its first wax and sealing products overseas.

“The US has a huge craft sector, but tapping into it has proved challenging.  Whilst we already export to the US, increasing our presence is reliant on finding logistics, distribution and sales solutions which will help us tap into the hobby and craft retailers,” says Charlie Stockbridge, Commercial Director at Manuscript Pen Company.

The company has been supported by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to realise its overseas ambitions in the US.

As part of this support, UKTI introduced Manuscript to the West Midlands Business Export project, which has enabled the company to further research North America and make essential trade visits to explore its options further.

The West Midlands Business Export project is part of a range of support programmes available to SMEs and has been set-up to increase the number and competitiveness of West Midland SMEs operating internationally.

A key element of the support is the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) grant, which is available to eligible SMEs who are looking to increase their international presence in new and existing markets.

Manuscript used the grant to part fund a trade mission to the US with the aim of researching and meeting potential distributors and warehousing facilitators, sales representatives and retailers to help achieve its international ambitions.

“To develop the business and gain a footing in the North American market it was essential to meet with potential new business contacts and distributors to discuss our product range.

“We also commissioned an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) before committing ourselves to the trip, which has proved to be invaluable,” says Charlie.

Although the visit did not produce any immediate new opportunities, the company has since been approached by one of the largest craft distributors within the US, which will provide them with warehouse solutions for the company so it can hit the independent market.

“Our initial aspirations were to double our export to the US, however, with potential new business in the pipeline and working with the new distribution company, we could see this target being achieved far quicker than we anticipated,” says Charlie.

“North America is where we are currently concentrating our efforts, but we are already looking at expanding our reach within Europe and other alternative markets.”

For further information on the West Midlands Business Export project and to find out if you are eligible for our grants call 02476 236406