Former Dragons’ Den star eyes stateside success

Export | South West | Sport | Technology

Cornwall-based fitness equipment manufacturer, Rugged Interactive, is growing its business overseas after securing £350,000 worth of contracts in the United States.

Using the latest technology geared to match individuals’ own capabilities, the business designs interactive fitness products for school and indoor adventure. Products include the Pro-X, CardioWall and climbing and trampolining equipment for well-known UK names such as Manchester City Football Club, Anthony Joshua and Bannatyne’s Health Club and Spa.

International Trade Advisors (ITAs) from the Department for International Trade (DIT) helped Rugged Interactive to develop a digital marketing strategy which aided the company in breaking into the competitive American market.

Since it began exporting in 2017, the business has established a strong customer base in Europe. Exports now make up two-thirds of the company’s annual turnover. And thanks to the recent US contract win, it now predicts its exporting activity will be worth £1.5m by 2020.

Rugged Interactive enrolled in the Government’s Passport to Export programme in 2015 – an export assessment and support programme for small and medium-sized enterprises – and appeared on Dragons’ Den in the same year, securing an investment offer of £100,000 from Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones.

Simon Heap, founder at Rugged Interactive, said: “We’ve been exporting since 2017 and while our products flew off the shelves in the UK and Europe, the US market was harder to crack.

“Supporting us with our digital marketing strategy, our ITA recommended which language we should be using on our channels. The way we talk to US consumers is more focused on long term benefits and installation, for example.

“As a sports equipment manufacturer, we had quite different needs from the food and drink brands that the South West is famous for, but our ITA understood that from the outset and was able to provide tailored assistance. With such high-quality support, if we can do it, so can your business.”

Paul Shand, DIT’s Head of South West, said: “Rugged Interactive’s success demonstrates the opportunities that are out there for South West goods and services in North America and beyond.

“South West exports totalled more than £20.7bn in 2017, which highlights the many opportunities across the world for local businesses. I’d encourage any business looking to enter new markets and expand their reach overseas to get in touch. We have a dedicated team of International Trade Advisers based in the South West and in more than 109 markets worldwide.”

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