By Jonathan Davies

After winning the International Trade Entrepreneur of the Year award at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in November 2014, I caught up with Sean Ramsden from Ramsden International to talk about his award.

Tell us a bit about your story and the business...

When I graduated from Cambridge University my contemporaries joined global corporations but I wanted to test my entrepreneurial fire and instead took on the fledgling export arm of the grocery business founded by my grandfather in 1946. It was small, loss making and did not generate enough to live on.

Nearly two decades on, Ramsden International is the UK’s leading wholesale exporter of British-branded food and drink. I have grown the company almost from scratch to a £45 million-a-year business, consistently outperforming exporters many times our size, after identifying a market to export British favourites such as PG Tips, Cadburyʼs chocolate, Colmanʼs Mustard and Branston Pickle to expatriate communities around the world. After success on every continent, I expanded to supply local consumers with gourmet, speciality and health foods.

This achievement in promoting brand Britain has won us the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade three times (2004, 2009, 2012). By overcoming obstacles such as volatile exchange rates, ever-tightening regulations and recession, I have bucked the trend and expanded thanks to innovation and great customer service. I have grown in confidence as an entrepreneur through continual personal development; just as important is to have happy, highly motivated staff so their individual development is a priority. Together we make an exceptional team.

What was your immediate reaction to winning the award?

I was very pleasantly surprised — in fact, I was shocked! It is a huge accolade to be named a Great British Entrepreneur of the Year, and it is a reflection on the successes and hard work of the whole company and all our employees.

What do you think it was about your story or your business that impressed the judges?

I suspect it was several factors:

The fact that I entirely disrupted the traditional grocery export model — instead going direct to overseas retailers with a unique one-stop-shop service that assists customers with everything from import regulations to door-to-door delivery.

The fact that we have maintained our market-leader position and averaged year-on-year growth of 27% over the last 19 years — a phenomenal achievement over such a long period.

The fact that we have used profit to drive more innovation, growth and investment.

And the fact that we are a very people business — dedicated to superb customer service and to looking after our staff.

What does it mean to win the award?

It is an immense honour for the company, our staff and for me personally.

How important are the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in making entrepreneurs aware that their work does not go unnoticed?

It is very important that entrepreneurship is celebrated and recognised as the engine for the economy. A culture of entrepreneurship is critical to the future of this country, and the Great British Entrepreneur Awards are playing a vital role in encouraging that.

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