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Charles Farris Ltd, the Wiltshire Chandlery, which holds two royal warrants and has been making candles in England since 1845, has carried off the top prize in the inaugural government-backed Open to Export Action Plan Competition.

The company – which has received £3,000 funding and additional benefits to help accelerate its export goals – was among ten SMEs from wide ranging sectors shortlisted from over 400 businesses to have started using the Export Action Plan.

At a special event in London, Charles Farris MD, Mark Pountain, and sales director, Nick Rees, along with the fellow finalists, presented their Export Action Plans created using Open to Export’s innovative digital business planning tool to a panel of expert judges.

Open to Export has been set up by the government as a digital solution to boost the UK’s SME exports. The Export Action Plan is the latest addition to its online offering, which is dedicated to helping 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.

Mark Pountain said: “We are surprised, humbled and excited to win this prestigious prize, given the strengths of the other finalists – all of whom have so much to offer international markets – and we thank all the sponsors most warmly.  The funding and support will enable us to develop our international website for export – we have ambitious plans this year for Germany and Poland. We look forward to maximising the profiling benefits emanating from this award, and to an ongoing and highly productive working relationship with Open to Export and the Institute of Export as we grow and diversify further.”

Fellow finalists were:

Two Little Boys – an innovative gift company in Chiswick, London

Funky Feet Music – a franchising operation supporting children’s physical and cognitive development through music and movement, based in Snarestone, Derbyshire

Intrepid Brewing – the first commercial brewery in the Hope Valley, in Derbyshire

Lifeline24 – the Norwich-based premier personal alarm service for elderly and disabled people

Opal Health – a Birmingham manufacturer of disposable curtains for the healthcare sector

Prison Voicemails – the Norfolk SME providing a voicemail service for prisoners and their families

Special iApps – a developer of education apps for children with special educational needs, based in Durham

Turtle Tots – Turtle Tots, a baby and toddler swimming licensing company based in Bristol

Dart Tool Group – a Kirkaldy organisation selling power tools to the trade

Julian Hucker, Open to Export chairman and successful tech entrepreneur, presented the winning prize to Mark Pountain 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.

He said: “The competition has been a tremendous success and our commitment to help new exporters 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.”

Said IOE director general Lesley Batchelor, who is also chief executive of Open to Export: “The entrepreneurial spirit, vision and energy of the finalists – who are passionate about harnessing the wealth of opportunities in international trade – was inspiring.’

Joining Julian Hucker and Lesley Batchelor on the judging panel were Chris Heyes, Head of International at the International Festival for Business 2016, and Victoria Eggs – a small business owner whose exports have grown significantly since being a finalist in a previous Open to Export competition in 2013.

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

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

“The judges faced a difficult decision as all the shortlisted companies were worthy winners – a big congratulations to them all and to Mark and the team at Charles Farris.”

Visit for more information and to try out the new Export Action Plan service at

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