Collaborating with international partners, knowing customer buying habits and maintaining business adaptability were all crucial for success in cracking the overseas market, business leaders heard during a forum at the Australian National University this week.
Days before the Handmade Market was due to open in 2020 the pandemic forced its cancellation, so owner Julie Nichols turned the event to an online marketplace selling the wares of 500 small businesses, attendees learnt.
When COVID-19 threatened the gin business, Underground Spirits began producing hand sanitizer for frontline workers in the ACT.
Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt said for many local businesses the pandemic was "the great leveler" when it came to thriving in the export market.
"People were locked down all over the world so suddenly all business was being done on Zoom," he said.
"So if you'd had a disadvantage because someone else could more easily get to a meeting in another country, suddenly the field was leveled."
Mr Catt said the chamber was hearing of more and more Canberra businesses who had avoided timezone restraints by partnering with businesses in overseas markets.
"The model isn't trying to sell out of Australia, it's working with them to deliver your product or your service or business intelligence to really thrive in that market," he said.
Penten is one such example, the Canberra-based business now delivering defence and security technologies through its partnerships around the world, Mr Chatt said.
"If you think about Canberra as a business - we're a city of a few hundred thousand so if you have high-growth aspirations or want to scale a business often it's looking at overseas markets or markets outside of Canberra to do that,"
"That's why looking at export potential is so important."
The event was held as a precursor to the 2021 ACT Chief Minister's Export Awards, recognising the Canberra region's growing export economy.
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