What It Takes: Export Mission Insights with Wild Prairie Soap

Cosme Tokyo 2019_1
Luke Smith
August 22, 2019

Share this page

The Importance of Export

At EEDC we’re always talking about export—about its competitive importance, its clarifying value, and its essential role in maximizing growth potential. But to the uninitiated or inexperienced, export can be a confusing catch-all term that is difficult to parse. What exactly do we mean when we talk about “beginning the export process”? What are the investments and resources that are required?

An essential but sometimes overlooked aspect of export is the importance of first visiting your new target market. Secondary research is great, but exploring there yourself to interact with consumers, meet with potential partners, and get a sense of day-to-day life is an invaluable step to success. There is no substitute for in-person experience when trying to understand a new culture, country, and customer base. This can be done through organized missions, which can include active participation in local commerce fairs and tradeshows.

For example in early 2019, EEDC, with support from the Alberta Japan Trade Office, organized a Japan export mission with three local companies, My Daughter Fragrances, Pura Botanicals, and Wild Prairie Soap. There, they displayed their products in a booth at Cosme Tokyo, one of the World’s largest cosmetics tradeshows.

Attending Cosme Tokyo 2019

To showcase the particulars of what can be involved in such a process, we talked with Wild Prairie Soap to discuss their specific experience of attending Cosme Tokyo 2019 and their initial forays into the Japanese market.

EEDC: What value do you find in attending export missions?

WPS: On the whole, as with the previous export mission (to Japan in Fall 2018), you kind of just have to go and do it to sink your teeth in and understand the market better. I would not have understood the market if I hadn’t done the previous export mission where we did retail tours, focus groups, cultural learning, business practice learning, and so much more.

A lot of my perception has changed now after I’ve been to Japan – for example, I had perceived the Japanese market to be all about natural products, and they are to some extent, but they are not at the same level of desire and understanding as, say, North America, UK, Europe, Australia. There is definitely room for growth there, but had I gone into the market just completely thinking the consumers would be all for natural products, I would have been wrong. That is a huge misconception.

What was your experience attending Cosme Tokyo like?

This tradeshow was the best way to get in front of the most number of people and to share our brand. Without the show it would have been impossible to do so at that level. There is value to doing these types of show in that the valuable exposure gives you more credibility for buyers. So doing the show was instrumental for us. There was no way we would have found a distributor otherwise.

The show made it clear to us how you do business in Japan as well, providing us with some regulatory information, useful tips on Japan business relationships, and how you have to relationship build and put in time and effort (for example, we realized that despite initial efforts, you might not get a deal until 2-3 years later).

Have you seen any wins or results from the trip?

We have now recently secured a two year exclusive contract with a large distributor whom we met at Cosme Tokyo 2019, and who has since placed orders for our products. We hope to continue to build this relationship and gain larger orders down the line and during our contract time frame. We will be participating in Cosme Tokyo 2020 again.

What were some difficulties or lessons learned from your experience?

One learning is that, although I have traveled a lot for work in Canada, travelling overseas is different because the time difference is tough to deal with. You have to adjust yourself and be ready to communicate with people back home. You’re working overtime essentially, because even though you’re away, you still have to deal with things/business back home.

Additionally, coming back from the trade mission, there is still a lot of follow up and back and forth communication you have to do with the contacts and people you met during the trip. So when you’re back, you work your regular hours for your business AND then communicate with the say distributor at 3am, because that’s when they’re up and they’re sending you important emails that you have to respond to. It’s hard work. You feel like you’re constantly working.

It takes some adjustments and you have to change your way of working. But I like travelling for work. It is definitely a perk.

Cosme Tokyo 2019_2

"The value of EEDC is huge...EEDC knew what an export mission is supposed to look like and I didn’t."

- Tanya Zurock, Founder, Wild Prairie Soap

Would you recommend going on an export mission with EEDC?

Yes! Of course! I think for sure companies can go into any country on their own, but there is a difference in getting the support and guidance from EEDC that you wouldn’t be able to obtain on your own. This tradeshow for example—we wouldn’t have had the funds to be able to exhibit on our own or handle all the logistical aspects of it by ourselves.

The value of EEDC is huge–in coordinating all the details, the whole retail experience (what it looks like in market), arranging meetings, and giving it a different experience. EEDC knew what an export mission is supposed to look like and I didn’t.

The Alberta Japan Office’s support from their in-market team that knows the culture, practices, expectations, and formalities was also huge. All of those things would have been hard to navigate without EEDC and the Alberta Japan office. Also, the initiation of EEDC in booking the show – brilliant! Not trying to suck up, but this is all really true, and it was super helpful.

We want to work with you too!

Looking to maximize your growth potential? Interested in exploring the global market? Contact our team today!

You may also like