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Gain visibility and recognition for excellence in trade and export by applying for the Golden Bridge Trade and Investment Awards.

What is the Golden Bridge Trade and Export Awards?

The 2017 Golden Bridge Trade and Investment Awards present an exciting opportunity for UK companies trading or investing in Belgium, and Belgian and Luxembourgian companies trading or investing in the UK to showcase their bilateral success to an international jury and celebrate their achievements during an exclusive ceremony hosted by the British Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose at the British Residence in Brussels, at the heart of Europe.

The Golden Bridge Awards is co-organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain.

Fun fact: Belgium was the 7th largest export market to the UK and the UK was the 12th largest export market to Belgium last year.

Why should you apply?

Expand your international network, gain business and political expertise, receive recognition for your achievements.

The Golden Bridge Award opens doors to an international network and the connections businesses need to succeed both at home and abroad. Our international panel of judges from the business community are also affiliated with regional trade and investment bodies as well as embassies from the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Winning a Golden Bridge Award will solidify your credibility on any of the three markets and will reinforce your pivotal role  in the economic relationship between Belgium, the U.K. and Luxembourg.

Previous winners of the Best Newcomer category, Orega, shared that the recognition for their export credentials gave them even greater visibility.

“It has sent the right message to our business partners based in Belgium. The award delivers to our potential customers a strong message, as we were new comers on the market.”
-Orega, Golden Bridge Best Newcomer Winner 2016

The award made a positive impression on their business partners with their improved credibility.

Bel’Export, 2016 winner of the Golden Bridge Award for UK business to Belgium, shared that the Golden Bridge award raised their company profile internationally as well as at home.

“As company you gain visibility, in – and outside the UK. It is a recognition for doing a good job.”

-Bel’Export, Golden Bridge Winner 2016

What will you win?

The winners of the Global Bridge award will receive:

  • Visibility at the awards event itself.
  • A one-year free membership* of the British Chamber. If you qualify under our SME criteria, you receive free  membership already if you are shortlisted as a finalist.
  • Participation in our Golden Bridge Awards Winners’ Day programme in Brussels in January 2018 to celebrate your success.
  • Your company featured in the British Chamber’s annual publications and in articles on our social media channels.

Apply now! The final registration deadline is 30th September!
Do you want to be a Golden Bridge Awards partner? Check the Golden Bridge Trade & Investment Award page on our website for more information or contact Alexandra Trandafir at alexandra@britishchamber.be.

 The Gala Dinner for the Golden Bridge Awards will take place on Wednesday 22nd November 2017 at The British Ambassador’s Residence in Brussels. The applicants will be shortlisted based on their financial performance, their innovation and strategy abroad, and their motivation for entering the awards.

*regular membership

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Two of our organising committees are currently in search of new chairs this summer. We’re looking for two professionals to lead our Business Development Group and our young professional’s network, Brussels New Generation. We took some time over Easter to talk to President of the British Chamber, Thomas Spiller about the importance of sitting in a leadership role outside of your organisation.

This summer is going to bring with it two very exciting opportunities for two professionals in our network here at the chamber. With that in mind, I wanted to emphasise the importance of sitting in a leadership role outside of your organisation; it can be a real boost for your personal development whilst bringing real benefits to your employers.

First of all, you’re instantly going to raise your own personal profile: it’ll be your name at the top of the list. And if your name is there, you’re also creating visibility for your company. For example, if you’re chairing a committee at the chamber, you’ll get visibility for yourself and your organisation through our various media. You’re also going to be at the speakers table for the events that you’re committee have organised which brings me to my next point: your ability to expand your network through a trusted platform.

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The British Chamber attracts the key, high level stakeholders and decision-makers in both politics and business all year round. As chair of either BDG or BNG, you’ll be hosting these individuals at our events. This is also where you’re employers can really benefit too as you’ll be in prime position to ask the questions and gain real insights that you can take away and better prepare your organisation for whatever challenges the future will bring.

Where and who these insights come from? You can lead on that. You’ll be in the driving seat to shape the agenda and put together the programme with your committee. The new BNG chair will already be inheriting an exciting programme in 2016 as we look ahead to the Strasbourg Visit. You’ll be chairing panels including MEP’s, political advisers and senior press officers. If you’re elected chair of the Business Development Group, you’ll be chairing a fast growing committee! BDG hosted 40 events in 2015 compared to 12 the year before and have the next London Visit to look forward to which last year featured Ken Clarke MP and Lord Mandelson as speakers. The committee will also be overseeing our ‘Ambassador Hosts’ series with the great support of British Ambassador to Belgium, HE Alison Rose.

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Don’t forget that these sorts of opportunities allow you to demonstrate your leadership potential outside of your day to day role. Show your employers that you aspire to leadership and are actively trying to push yourself and find that experience yourself. Make sure you grab your opportunity and apply for a leadership role at the chamber role today!

You can read a bit about what the current chairs had to say about how they’ve benefited from their roles below:

Chairing the Business Development Group has not only offered me a unique opportunity to contribute to the continued growth of the British Chamber; the role has also provided me with extended visibility for my business as well as on an individual level. The role offers great exposure in relation to fellow chamber members and other key stakeholders in the British, Belgian and European business communities. It’s been an honour and pleasure to chair chamber activities with such interesting and diverse speakers as Lord Mandelson, Jerry Hardcastle OBE, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, and many other senior business leaders, political figures, entrepreneurs, and opinion leaders.

– Olivier Van Horenbeeck, Chair of the Business Development Group 2014-2016

Chairing the BNG has been incredibly helpful for me both from a personal and professional perspective. It has enabled me to significantly expand my network of contacts and brought me great visibility as an individual consultant but also for my company, particularly vis-à-vis senior people in Brussels. It is also the best possible training in public speaking, which for a young professional is a very useful skill to develop. Finally, I really enjoyed working alongside a great team both within the British chamber and the BNG group. It is a great role and a significant part of the Chamber’s activities towards younger audiences in Brussels.

– Amélie Coulet, Chair of Brussels New Generation 2016-2016

Since the terror threat in Brussels, leading to the subsequent lock-down which then inspired Mr Trump to dub the city a ‘hellhole’, not to mention last week’s EU reform negotiations and the tabloid media storm that ensued: It’s fair to say that Belgium and Brussels has had it’s fair share of attention this winter, and it’s been all but rosy. We’ll be setting all that straight this week though as Glenn, our CEO, tells us it’s really not all that bad.

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Belgium is a valuable market and an attractive place to invest, and do business. With only 11 million people it’s roughly equal with China as a market for British exports and an ideal launch pad to the rest of the EU.

The security emergency at the end of 2015 gave us all a reminder that there are real threats to the prosperity and security that most Europeans take as normal. Even Belgium is not immune. That’s why I have been keen to work with our friends at AmCham Belgium and the Belgium Japan Association to make sure that business in our own countries, and worldwide, are well informed about the situation here. Tomorrow, we’ll published an open letter, with the support of 13 other national chambers of commerce in Belgium, highlighting the continued attractiveness of Belgium.

The importance of business between Belgium and Britain is no flash in the pan. The British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium was founded here in 1898 and bilateral business continues to grow. To see that, you only have to look at the successful British and Belgian companies (large and small) recognised in our Golden Bridge Export Awards in recent times.

British investment, and that of the wider international business community, makes a big contribution to jobs and prosperity. With their many nationalities, the British Chamber’s member companies are a great representation of that international business community, directly employing more than 120,000 people here.

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While we all want and expect emerging economies to become more important trading partners in the future, Europe will continue to be hugely important to Britain for a very long time. To illustrate the point, Belgium recently jumped back above China (if only temporarily) as Britain’s 6th largest export market.

Since just Belgium on its own is so important to the UK, it’s no surprise that a clear majority of our members worry that leaving the EU would be bad for the British economy. Our job here in Brussels is to provide a platform that ensures our members understand the debate and its implications, and can plan how they will respond.

We’re planning an active programme of events over the period up to the referendum and plenty of opportunities for members to share their views with, and learn from, their peers.

Keep an eye out this week for a full press release!

Golden Bridge

The 19th edition of the prestigious Golden Bridge Trade& Export Awards for outstanding achievements in exporting between the UK and the Belux has been won by Soudal NV from Belgium and Ignition from the UK. The Awards were presented by the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce (BLCC) and the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium. Awards were also won by export newcomer SYX Automations and by NMC, Projective and RWS.

This year, Soudal NV received the coveted Golden Bridge Export Award handed over by H.E. Mr Guy Trouveroy, Ambassador of Belgium to the Court of St James’s, during a glamorous gala ceremony in central London on 26 November. Soudal is Europe`s leading independent manufacturer focused on sealants, PU Foams and adhesives. Operative in four continents and 44 subsidiaries worldwide, Soudal remains a family owned company established in 1966.

Ignition won the award for British companies from Wim Eraly,Senior General Manager at KBC Bank. Ignition delivers bespoke online training solutions to some of the most successful companies in the world, including Toyota Europe, L’Oréal, and Yamaha. From their strategic hub in Belgium,Ignition have grown their international business development and results immensely and highly impressively in recent years.

Best newcomer

The award of Best Newcomer was handed out to Syx AutomationsNV. The Jury were impressed with how Syx Automations has been able to convince major UK attractions to choose their software solution over British competitors. Prestigious projects include the Shard and the National Maritime Museum. Syx Automations received its award from Glenn Vaughan, Chief Executive of the British Chamber in Belgium. Syx Automations is active in the field of leisure management software for the leisure market such as zoos, museums and theatres. Furthermore, they have headquarters in Ypres (BE) and offices in Nijkerk (NL), London (UK) and Ahmedabad (India).

Best small & medium-sized enterprises

Awards were also handed out to three successfully exportingSmall & Medium Entreprises: NMC, Projective and RWS.

NMC is a company founded in 1950 and active in the development, production and marketing of synthetic foams. Mr Jean-Claude Kugener, Deputy Head of Mission at the Luxembourg Embassy in London handed over the award of best Belgian medium-sized enterprise because the company has succeeded in a very conservative market place and has been able to increase market share further by selling directly to the end user via the internet. NMC Group realizes an annual turnover of 200 million Euros.

RWS Group received its best British medium-sized award from Thomas Spiller, Chairman of the British Chamber in Belgium. RWS is the world’s leading provider of excellent translation and language support. Eclipse Translations is a dedicated provider of translation and interpreting services and forms part of the RWS Group Commercial Translation Division. RWS Group was recognised by the Jury for their ability to successfully adapt to the Belgian market characteristics and grow their business consistently in an intensely competitive market.

Projective, set up in 2006 in Belgium, won the best small-sized company award. In less than ten years, the company has grown to a team of more than 90 project managers with local offices in Brussels, London and The Hague. Their prize was handed over by Carole van Eyll, Deputy for Economic Affairs at the Belgian Embassy. Given their consistent growth and on going development in London, the financial centre of Europe and even the world, the Jury were delighted to present Projective with this award.

“High-quality participants”

BLCC Chairman Michel Vanhoonacker said: “Even in its 19th year, the Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards, has lost nothing of its sparkle, attracting the best of the best in exporting between Belgium,Luxembourg and the UK. The UK and the Belux region are very important trading partners for each other, something which never hits the headlines sadly enough.Our combined trade exceeded that compared with of many of the newer, ‘trendy’markets such as China or India.”

See all the photos from last night’s Gala here!

Password: GB15

 

Golden Bridge

With the announcement of this year’s Golden Bridge awards fast approaching, we’re providing a last look at the candidates before the awards ceremony in London next week. The awards recognise the achievements of companies making the successful leap from the UK to the Belgian market and from the Belgium and Luxembourg markets to the UK.

Can you give us a bit of background as to where you company has come from? Why did you choose to join the UK market when you did?

Fenzi, an Italian private company and leader in chemicals for the flat glass processing industry, was already for a long time locally present on the UK market with sealants (glue for insulating glass) and coatings for glass (mirror backing coatings – decorative coatings for glass). This specific market, closely related to the building industry, showed in the UK a lot of challenges in growth for the last 5 years. Specific development of products to fulfill market needs, fast acting and quitting of a European supplier of the market granted Fenzi several opportunities. The synergy of these factors together with the growth of the UK building market resulted in Fenzi’s sales increase.

Was there any specific technical or market research that your company done on the UK market before entering?

Sealants and glass coatings are very technical based. Intense focusing on technical service and guarantee of constant quality were the main factors to increase Fenzi’s market shares in the UK. To encounter the UK market for sealants, we particularly focused on developing a high standard sealants range of products. Fast acting to pick up opportunities, when one of the competitors left the market, turned out in a quick volume increase of the sealants market.

What has been your marketing strategy in the UK over the last 3 years?

To position Fenzi in the market as a company that brings:

  • Market driven development, by offering cutting-edge products that meet the ever-shifting needs of the market with maximal focus on technical service.
  • Solid and long-term solutions.
  • Reliable in supply combined  with an emphasis on quality

And finally, why did you apply for the Golden Bridge Awards, and why do you think you should win?

The focus on tailor-made products in combination with providing good services created a gap with the competitors. Convincing customers to overcome their conservatism by switching to alternative solutions and product ranges, is one of the biggest challenges. We proved that in very competitive markets, keep on following a good strategy with performing products combined with intense client-contact results in a profitable business. Continuation of this strategy, results in building ‘golden sustainable bridges’ with our clients in every country all over the world! Our application for this award is based on our pride for this success story.  And this is only a starting point …

Join us at the 2015 Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards to celebrate the best of Belgian, Luxembourg and British business. The awards, now in their 19th year, aim to promote trade between the UK and the Belux countries, and to promote the best and brightest in this dynamic and growing market. The awards will be hosted at a gala dinner in London on 26 November at the BLCC Clubhouse Ballroom. You can register for the event here! Don’t forget that for those travelling to London from the continent, an exclusive Eurostar discount is available. Please contact events@blcc.co.uk for details of how to book.

Golden Bridge

With the announcement of this year’s Golden Bridge awards fast approaching, we’re providing a last look at the candidates before the awards ceremony in London next week. The awards recognise the achievements of companies making the successful leap from the UK to the Belgian market and from the Belgium and Luxembourg markets to the UK. Here we take a look at Belgian carpet manufacturers, CLASSIS, and what they had to say about there moves into the UK market during their application process.

Can you give us a bit of background as to where you company has come from? Why did you choose to join the UK market when you did?

Our first office and starting point was our home in Wilrijk/Belgium. From day one, our target has been the UK market and  our company is established in Belgium primarily to address the needs of UK customers to fill the gap  identified by our owners and only several years after establishment did the company start to expand to other export markets. Having studied in the UK, one of the founding brothers was aware of the market potential in the UK for carpet business. His textile engineering brother, on the other hand, developed a good technical understanding of carpet production while doing a summer practice at DOMO (carpet manufacturer in Belgium whose floorcovering business was later acquired by BALTA Group, Europe’s biggest Carpet Manufacturer) during his MBA Degree in Brussels. By combining their strengths, the two brothers decided to develop the first tuft & broadloom collection dedicated to the UK market. That’s how the journey started for CLASSIS in the UK market.

What are your future plans for business development in the UK

In summary: In addition to concrete and aggressive growth plans with existing customers with new innovative products, we also have detailed plans in place to access to New Customer Segments/markets via New Investments & Improved Service Offerings. So that we can reach other customers that we are not able to cover. Additionally, we are also developing new products for CONTRACT Market in addition to RESIDENTIAL Market that we are covering with our current product portfolio. With this approach, we aim to reach a more diversified customer base and a wider product portfolio.

Why are you applying for the Golden Bridge Awards, and why do you think you should win?

Such recognition would be the best ever reward & motivation that we can give to our staff and sales agents who have been consistently working very hard and hence significantly contributed for achieving this export business volume to the UK market, year after year. Our export business to the UK have been increasing every year since our foundation in 2003 and we believe there is still far more potential to grow. Together with such a prestigious award, we would actually have a very special argument to convince our potential customers to help us to achieve far more export volumes to the UK market while creating more employment opportunities in Belgium by extending the sales, marketing and warehouse facilities and increasing the utilization of established carpet manufacturers. Such an award would also stimulate our existing customers to give them further confidence that they are working with the right partner & supplier. This will provide our company a very precious competitive advantage that we will definitely need it to be able to achieve our aggressive growth targets.

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The Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain (BLCC) and the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium are very excited to announce the finalists for the 2015 Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards, which will be presented at a gala dinner and awards ceremony in London on 26 November! The Golden Bridge awards recognise the achievements of companies making the successful leap from the UK to the Belgian market and from Belgium and Luxembourg market to the UK.

For the participating companies, the awards are an opportunity to celebrate success, raise their company profile and showcase their business credentials.Former winners and finalists – such as Farnell, Brussels Airlines, Le Pain Quotidien, Alpro, Real Good Food and Netshield – have confirmed that the award has enhanced their image both at home and abroad. Whether large or small, every finalist has achieved outstanding success in exporting and trading in Great Britain, Belgium or Luxembourg, and are among the standard bearers for the very best of UK-Belux exports.

The shortlist of British companies truly showcase the diversity of this year’s candidates; from training solutions experts Ignition to one of the world’s leading translation companies RWS.

It’s a similar story across the water with Belgian synthetic foam manufacturer NMC SA being nominated alongside carpet designers, manufacturers and distributors Classis Carpets, and Syx Automation, active in the field of leisure management software. Also in the mix are Projective, a leading independent provider of programme and project management to financial services institutions across Europe and beyond, The Fenzi Group, specialising in solutions for secondary processing of flat glass, and Soudal NV, Europe’s leading independent manufacturer of sealants, PU-Foams and adhesives.

The applicants have been shortlisted based on their financial performance, their innovation and strategy abroad, and their motivation for entering the awards. Belgian companies will be pitching to a board of judges in London on 15 October, chaired by Belgian Ambassador Guy Trouveroy, whilst British companies will be facing a similar selection panel in Brussels on 29 October, chaired by British Ambassador Alison Rose. Awards will be given in various categories based on company size, export history, and the overseas market in question.

Find the full list of finalists and their company descriptions here!

Join us at the 2015 Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards to celebrate the best of Belgian, Luxembourg and British business. The awards, now in their 19th year, aim to promote trade between the UK and the Belux countries, and to promote the best and brightest in this dynamic and growing market. The awards will be hosted at a gala dinner in London on 26 November at the BLCC Clubhouse Ballroom. You can register for the event here! Don’t forget that for those travelling to London from the continent, an exclusive Eurostar discount is available. Please contact events@blcc.co.uk for details of how to book.

 

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This week, we’re putting the spotlight on the Golden Bridge Awards, which the British Chamber is co-organising with the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain for a fourth consecutive year. This summer we’ve been looking back on the successes of some of our past winners – Netshield, Real Good Food Europe and Premier Farnell – as they described the milestones they’ve achieved, the progress they’ve made and the learning experience they’ve had since becoming winners.

One key thing we learnt is that winning a Golden Bridge Award is rather a kick-starter than an end goal in itself, and that as a participating company, you need to think about how you make the most of your win:

“I would see it as a journey and not as a destination. It’s all about how you build on the award after the gala. Who you meet and what you achieve after is the key”, said Richard Carty, Commercial Director at Netshield, elaborating that: “Through connections we’ve made in Belgium since the Golden Bridge Award, we have been able to see that there is life outside of Brussels, as we are starting to expand our client-base to Flanders.”

Our past winners also shared their experiences of doing business in Belgium:

“Everything can take that little bit longer, and that is especially true for the business environment. When you come to Belgium, you have to play the long game, where patience is key. But once you have a way in, you are guaranteed stable clients and a trustworthy market”, Richard Carty told us.

Belgium’s geographical position and bureaucracy are two other aspects to consider:

“Belgium has the benefit of being globally well located. I wouldn’t go so far as saying it’s ideal for business, but if you create the right framework then a lot of the local issues go away”, Jerry Vaughan, Global Operations Director at Premier Farnell said, with Thierry Dubois from Real Good Food Europe agreeing that: “one of the main challenges is definitely the administration and bureaucratic processes. I would advise any UK company entering Belgium for the first time to delegate as much as possible to an accounting office, lawyer’s office, or any kind of service that could give you a helping hand with the administrative work.”

Over the past few years, we’ve seen many different reasons for companies to apply for a Golden Bridge Award. For some, it’s all about the profiling that comes with the award win, for others the main objective is the related business development opportunities during the gala night and the follow-up events.

For Jerry Vaughan and Premier Farnell, the award helped to facilitate meetings with key stakeholders such as the British Ambassador and the Minister-President of Wallonia, while Thierry Dubois and Real Good Food discovered that the application process itself also offered a chance to reflect and recognise what the company had actually achieved:

“When you get busy growing your business and you are constantly striving to reach the next level, you usually don’t find the time to sit down and look back at what you have achieved. The award application process offered a great opportunity to do just that. Besides that, it was certainly a nice celebration party!”

If you think you have a great story to tell and would like to celebrate it with us, you might want to think about applying for this year’s Golden Bridge Awards. You will need to act soon, though, as applications close on Friday 11 September. Find all the information you’ll need here.

The Golden Bridge Awards recognise the trade and export success of UK companies doing business in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies doing business in the UK. Companies of any size and in any industry can apply. Applications close in early September, and the winners will be announced at a high-level black-tie gala dinner in London on 26 November. Winning companies receive further recognition and profiling throughout the following year through the organising chambers. For more information on the awards and how to enter as a candidate, please contact James Pearson at james.pearson@britishchamber.be.

Golden_bridge2012-049In our series of revisiting past Golden Bridge Awards winners and their journeys since winning the award, today’s story puts the spotlight on Netshield.

Netshield is a technology and IT service led company that won the 2012 Golden Bridge Award for ‘Best Newcomer’. It has experienced continued success across Europe ever since.

Netshield came to Belgium on a market visit with UK Trade & Investment and made connections with a number of different organisations – including the British Chamber of Commerce – helping them to get a strong foothold in Belgium.

In less than three years, Netshield was able to grow exports by over 100%. Since 2010 Netshield has seen annual turnover growth of 35% of which 5.9% is due to Belgian exports.  

We took the chance to speak with Richard Carty, Commercial Director at Netshield.

Richard, it’s been about two and a half years since you won the award. Compared to where you were at the time and where you are now, what has happened?

We have been involved in Belgium for almost five years now, but it was only in 2012 that we experienced our first trading year. Starting from scratch, our revenues surpassed the 100.000€ mark, and it has been growing steadily ever since to about 500.00€ in 2015. Given that we have been through a recession which hit Belgium pretty badly in 2013, that is not a bad result.

Winning the award gave us some immediate smaller results in terms of recognition. But in the long term, we have managed to build from it and use it as a means to spread our word further to access key organisations and people.

What role does Belgium plays in Netshield’s activity?

At the moment, Belgium represents 20-25% of our turnover. Hopefully that will continue to grow, but we need to manage other markets too, as we don’t want to take our eye off them. That is challenge we are willing to accomplish at Netshield.

Regarding our client-base, Belgium offers a diverse spectrum of service-based companies and organisations such as various chambers of commerce and COBCOE. Compared to the UK, it’s different in the same: we are also very diverse there, but in sectors going from education, to retail, manufacturing, etc. In Brussels, all our clients can be encompassed under professional services because the city is focused on that.

However, that trend is quickly changing. Through connections we’ve made in Belgium since the Golden Bridge Award, we have been able to see that there is life outside of Brussels, as we are starting to expand our client-base to Flanders.

What surprised you most about working in Belgium?

As with everything in life, there are pleasant surprises and not so pleasant ones. In Belgium, everything can take that little bit longer, and that is especially true for the business environment. When setting up here, you have to be committed to the long run strategy, as sometimes you can only see the results after a number of years.

However, I find that it’s a nicer way of doing business here, one that is more relationship-based and not as price driven as in the UK and USA. Over there it’s all about how much you can cut the price.

When you come to Belgium, you have to play the long game, where patience is key. But once you have a way in, you are guaranteed stable clients and a trustworthy market.

Do you have any top tips for prospective Golden Bridge Awards candidates?

Your story needs to convince everyone, and that starts with you. We were honest and told it as it is. Many people tend to focus too much on financial volume, but that shouldn’t be a concern as long as you emphasize on what you have achieved with the amount you can generate. Its quality and not quantity that matters.

More importantly, I would see it as a journey and not as a destination. It’s all about how you build on the award after the gala. Who you meet and what achieve after is the key.

The Golden Bridge Awards recognise the trade and export success of UK companies doing business in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies doing business in the UK. Companies of any size and in any industry can apply. Applications close in early September, and the winners will be announced at a high-level black-tie gala dinner in London on 26 November. Winning companies receive further recognition and profiling throughout the following year through the organising chambers. For more information on the awards and how to enter as a candidate, please contact James Pearson at james.pearson@britishchamber.be.

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In our series of revisiting past Golden Bridge winners and how far they have come since their award win, today’s story puts the spotlight on Real Good Food Europe.

Real Good Food Europe, producer of baking ingredients, won the 2013 Golden Bridge Award for ‘Best Newcomer’. It has experienced continued success across Europe ever since.

Starting its European operations almost from scratch in 2010, revenues grew from €500.000 in 2013 to €2m in 2014, and with a turnover forecast of €4.5m for 2015. Real Good Food is now cementing its overseas commitment by opening a new office in Brussels and recruiting new employees.

We took the chance to speak with Thierry Dubois, General Manager of Real Good Food Europe, about the company’s journey since winning the award.

Thierry, it’s been approximately 1.5 years since you won the Golden Bridge Award for UK best newcomer into Belgium. What has happened since then for Real Good Food Europe?

Only good news so far to be honest. We have been growing surely but steadily. At present, we are a team of 10 people compared to the 6 we were at the time of winning the award. We should be adding two more people in the coming months, as we are looking to develop in other markets such as Germany. In the other countries where we already have a presence, such as France and the Netherlands, we have continued growing.

A year ago, we went from being a service company to owning our own warehouse of 650m2 for the next three years, but things went so fast that we already had to move in June to a bigger warehouse (1200 m2) in order to cope with our development. I guess that’s a positive problem to have on our hands!

So it’s really growing fast and in many different directions, especially as we are broadening our portfolio of products and expanding our customer base. We’ve been very successful in Western Europe and we now intend on going to Eastern Europe and possibly Russia if we find the right contact.

What did the Golden Bridge process do for you in terms of reflecting on your business success?

It’s always difficult to measure the exact business impact of these sort of things. However, I definitely know it has raised the profile of our European office, which won the award, as we have been contacted even by potential customers in our UK home market.

Also, when you get busy growing your business and you are constantly striving to reach the next level, you usually don’t find the time to sit down and look back at what you have achieved. The award application process offered a great opportunity to do just that. Besides that, it was certainly a nice celebration party! (laughs)

What have been the main challenges you faced about doing business in Belgium and Europe? Any ‘top tips’ to share on how to approach the Belgian market?

Every time we enter a new market in Europe we are facing new challenges, as we constantly need to re-evaluate how to integrate. France was a very difficult market for us to cope with, but thankfully we believe in always having someone there in the field taking care of each country’s customers. If you don’t know what is happening in a country and you try and find out from a distance, it’s very difficult to supply that market.

As for Belgium, one of the main challenges is definitely the administration and bureaucratic processes. I would advise any UK company entering Belgium for the first time to delegate as much as possible to an accounting office, lawyer’s office, or any kind of service that could give you a helping hand with the administrative work. It happens in many different places, but Belgium is certainly not an easy one, that’s for sure.

What role does Belgium play in Real Good Food Europe’s continued growth?

Belgium is the ideal place to be, but not necessarily the ideal place to sell. It’s a very good place to deliver all over Europe, but the Belgian market is rather small. We’re trying to develop it since we are here and it’s very easy to participate in related events.

From a sales perspective, bigger markets, such as Spain and Italy, are our main priorities though, as we have not been as successful there lately as we want to be. I suppose our recipes are more adapted to Northern Europe, but we have developed a new formula which I hope will enable us to cover those markets as well.

What was your secret to winning the Golden Bridge award, and what tips would you give any prospective candidate?

Try to keep it simple and focus on what really matters. I also brought something typically Belgian along for the selection panel: a speculoos-flavoured sugar-base for cakes, everybody had to love that – and they did!

The Golden Bridge Awards recognise the trade and export success of UK companies doing business in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies doing business in the UK. Companies of any size and in any industry can apply. Applications close in early September, and the winners will be announced at a high-level black-tie gala dinner in London on 26 November. Winning companies receive further recognition and profiling throughout the following year through the organising chambers. For more information on the awards and how to enter as a candidate, please contact James Pearson at james.pearson@britishchamber.be.

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