Shetland businesses interested in moving into new international markets attended a specialist export training programme held in Lerwick on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
Held at the Shetland Hotel, the Preparing to Export Programme was delivered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), in partnership with Scottish Development International (SDI), and was designed for those with limited experience in exporting.
One of the companies attending the event was Shetland Cheese based in the village of Skeld on the west side of Shetland which is run by Jay Hawkins.
Set up in 2009, Shetland Cheese produces artisan cheese using local milk and traditional methods of production.
Jay Hawkins said: "Last year, we commissioned larger-scale equipment so we could expand our production and that's why we are now looking for new markets. We have had a bit of interest from overseas where we sent small deliveries of cheese but we wanted to get ourselves into a position where we knew more about what is actually needed to export internationally.
"We are not experienced in exporting so attending the course has built up our understanding of the key issues involved and has enabled us to start developing a strategy to identify and approach the most lucrative markets and hopefully deliver new sales."
Lerwick based marine engineering firm Ocean Kinetics Limited (OKL) also attended the free training event.
As part of their growth aspirations, the company plan to move into new international markets.
Sharon Strachan, office manager at OKL said: "A key element of our growth plan is to diversify internationally and this programme helped our company understand the basics of exporting and exploring and where to look for new opportunities. We are currently not exporting but we are getting more work outside of Shetland and we now have a better understanding of what's involved in exporting abroad. The programme was very interesting and informative and it has encouraged us enormously as well as given us new confidence to tender for more jobs abroad."
HIE's head of business support in Shetland, Mark Georgeson, said: "Eight local businesses attended the course and it helped them to understand the basics of exporting. The course also gave them the skills to be able to assess where to look for new opportunities. There are excellent opportunities in international markets and many Shetland companies have over the years had a lot of success. Shetland continues to have a wide range of products and services that could be exported and we are keen to hear from businesses who would like help and advice to explore the opportunities."
The programme is part of the Smart Exporter trade skills programme funded by HIE, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the European Social Fund, and run in partnership with Scottish Development International. It provides free or subsidised services for companies and individuals who wish to expand their exporting knowledge.