Belgian expert helps Bay firm tap new markets

Cindy Preller

A NELSON Mandela Bay business is unlocking its export possibilities with the help of an international business exchange expert.

Mend-A-Bath International, a bathtub resurfacing business based in Port Elizabeth, is the first Eastern Cape company to take part in a Belgian non-profit organisation’s exchange programme.

Aptly named Ex-change, the organisation makes use of international volunteer experts to assist companies in countries such as South Africa, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Togo with various business needs and challenges they experience.

The business applicants defined what kind of expertise they required and needed to meet certain criteria, Ex- change’s Eastern Cape representative Rob Wylde said.

Mend-A-Bath managing director Dave Collins said the company had been exporting resurfacing bath kits around the globe since the early 1980s but found it very hard to penetrate certain markets in Europe.

“We have well-established franchises in more than 28 countries including the UK, US, France, Spain and Portugal but really battled for a long time to do business in some eurozone countries like Belgium, Finland, Germany and Italy. Olivier [Costa] helped us to unlock the business potential of these countries in showing us how to overcome the language barriers and target the right organisations.”

Olivier Costa, the Ex-change specialist assigned to Mend-A- Bath for a week’s intensive consulting, has a legal background and works as a project manager in Belgium.

Mend-A-Bath was his second assignment for Ex-change – he had previously helped strengthen export opportunities between Belgium and Australia and New Zealand.

“The most important thing to remember when doing business with Europe is not to look at it as a single country, with singular consumer behaviour and markets,” Costa said. “The northern part of Europe is still recovering from a deep financial crisis and this is why a different approach is needed for each country.”

After the consultation week, Costa will give Mend-A-Bath a report on how to improve its business export opportunities.

“We also discussed labour costs, distribution channels, shipping and storage opportunities as well as franchising network possibilities,” Costa said.

Mend-A-Bath was established in the mid-1970s by Ivor Benn – after whom the street in Fairview where the company is based is named.

Mend-A-Bath franchisees every year resurface thousands of bathtubs around the world. Mend-A-Bath also produces a DIY resurfacing kit.

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