Could moving your business to another country be the boost that it needs to succeed? It may sound like an extreme solution – but some start-ups are considering overseas relocation to help ensure their business’ survival.
Neil Cocker, co-founder of RampTshirts.com, made the decision to move his business 1,400 miles from Cardiff to Sofia, Bulgaria. What may have been considered a risky move has paid off – by moving the operational centre to Bulgaria, Neil has grown his business, which provides custom t-shirts for teams or events, by 60%.
The journey from Cardiff to Sofia started in January 2016, when Neil joined the Ignite accelerator programme, and RampTshirts.com was born. With Ignite’s support, Neil and his business partners created a long-term strategy for the business – but with tight margins, decisions needed to be made on whether to pitch for investment, or find another way to grow revenue.
“Our success couldn’t have happened if we’d been under the pressure of having to find significantly increased revenue very quickly,” Neil explains. “It would have made us make business decisions that were only right for the short term.”
Whilst they were still debating in the early days whether to base the business in Cardiff or London, the idea of Sofia first came up.
“One of my business partners was Bulgarian – I figured we could go for a couple of months, to give us space and time to think,” said Neil. “I came out in early September 2016, thinking I’d be out here for three months. But I’m still here.”
With living costs between 30% and 50% cheaper than the UK, Neil has found that Sofia is the perfect base for business.
“We weren’t being driven by investors. It’s given us the space to analyse things – unless you do that, it can make you play safe,” Neil said.
And it’s clear that the strategy has paid off. His team is now spread across the UK, USA and Europe, and using platforms like Skype and Slack allows the team to communicate quickly and efficiently, as well as being able to track workflow.
“Very little has changed day-to-day,” Neil explains. “Bulgarian currency is pegged against the euro, so I keep a very close eye on that. It’s still a cash economy here, but apart from paying staff, I only do business in Sterling.” He added: “Now that I could be here on a more long-term basis I am currently exploring ways I could save when accessing my money.” Conversion fees can quickly add up if you don’t do your research.
Neil is also a big fan of Bulgaria as a place to live, as well as work. “Bulgarians are really lovely friendly people. The cultural differences mean you can never assume you know what’s going on in someone’s head.”“For example, maybe 10% of the time you hold a door open, someone says thank you. It’s not rudeness, it’s just a cultural difference.
The older generation also shake their head to say yes, nod for no, which presented difficulties in the early days before I could speak the language!”
“Being here makes you realise how much time you devote to other things that are maybe unnecessary. We’re trying to build a business with multi million-pound potential. It has given us the space to think about strategy.”
If you’re considering setting up all or part of your business operations overseas, speak to one of our Money Transfer experts to find out how currency fluctuations could impact your business. Our team can help you to transfer money to and from the UK at great rates and the FairFX Corporate Card can help you keep control of freelancer wages and business expenses when your staff travel overseas.