The Gas Natural Fenosa Foundation has now provided support to over 1,130 business leaders and executives from Spanish small- and medium-sized enterprises for their overseas development plans through its First Export Programme. Operating in Spain since the end of 2014, the initiative focuses on lending support to SMEs as they take their first steps towards exporting anywhere in the world through a full, free and ongoing training plan that includes in-person and online training sessions, as well as personalised advice and mentoring.
A total of 50 of these SMEs have moved onto a subsequent stage of the programme in which they have had access to customised advice and consultancy services of a specialised nature, and 25% of them are already exporting their products. The foundation has held First Export Programme seminars in the main provincial capitals of Spain.
Ipdomo and Caixes Puigvert are two of the SMEs that began their international development with support from the programme run by the Gas Natural Fenosa Foundation. The first – a company that specialises in developing a comprehensive platform for the remote management of all sorts of installations – has begun exporting its products to Great Britain, Italy and France, and is now launching operations in another three countries – Poland, Ireland and Germany. Its CEO, Vicente Martínez, says that the First Export Programme guided them through their first steps. “We had no idea about the export world and the foundation helped us to see – step-by-step – the problems we needed to focus on and identify the markets we needed to approach,” he said.
The other company – Caixes Puigvert – is engaged in the manufacture of physical security products for business and banking. It currently exports to France and is now negotiating its entry into another three countries – Morocco, Tunisia and Burkina Faso. Commercial Manager at the company, Sara Camarasa, says they knew absolutely nothing about how to export when they started. “The First Export Programme was very useful because it gave us an idea about what was involved in exporting, whether we could do it or not, what steps we needed to follow, where to go at each moment and how to organise ourselves in time,” she says.
International development and grants
The First Export Programme was launched in Argentina in 2001; since then, 25,300 companies in the South American country have completed the programme and a total of 1,200 SMEs have become exporters thanks to its support.
The main initiatives of the First Export Programme include grants for training on foreign trade, provided by the Gas Natural Fenosa Foundation. Last year, the programme gave some 30 companies – 15 in Spain and 15 in Argentina – the opportunity to take a graduate-level course at the Barcelona School of Management, part of the Pompeu Fabra University's Institute of Continuous Education.
The Foundation has organised meetings with the Spanish and Argentinian entrepreneurs who are taking part in the postgraduate course to promote exchanges and trade agreements between them and to drive forward the international expansion processes of their SMEs. This meeting takes place as part of the Canvassing and Business Trip by Argentine Business Leaders to Spain, which was organised for the ninth time last year and in which 195 business leaders have taken part so far.
Furthermore, beyond the First Export Programme, the Gas Natural Fenosa Foundation has also organised a training course for SMEs in Algeria. This took place in collaboration with the Barcelona School of Management at the Pompeu Fabra University and the Algerian Chamber of Trade and Industry. This first edition of the Programme de Formation pour l’Export was attended by 15 Algerian entrepreneurs. The course began in May last year and recently finished this March, during which time the Algerian business leaders studied a training course divided into six modules that tackled various topics ranging from international marketing to logistics or inter-cultural negotiation. The programme concluded with a study trip by the Algerian entrepreneurs to Barcelona.
Barcelona, 16 March 2016.