Case study: international collaboration

Case study: international collaboration

You don’t need to be big to think big and start growing your business and marketing operations overseas. Kerry Bannigan, co-founder of fashion show and event production company Nolcha, and an events and marketing consultant, shares her story with CIM.

“Despite being British, I started my first business, Nolcha, in New York. Visa paperwork that would allow me to travel back and forth between the US and the UK was lengthy, and ironically it was while I was waiting to return home to the UK to start a business that the idea came to me. I was surrounded by fashion designers – super-creative people who were fizzing with ideas – but when it came to getting their work in front of the right people, they didn’t know where to start. I started a company that designers could employ to create and produce their events, from building the set to casting the models to doing the PR. It was just me and my business partner, and right from the word go we knew that key partnerships with industry experts would be essential to our success.  

“Fashion is international, and that meant we had to be, too. We needed partners in strategic locations that could help us not only tap into local knowledge and customs but also advise on local brands that would be keen to underwrite some of the production costs by sponsoring the events. Funnily enough, I became my own ‘local’ broker when it came to setting up UK partnerships. It became apparent right away that speaking the same language by no means breaks down all the barriers, and the subtlety and nuances of the British way of doing things went right over the head of my American business partner, who found our natural reserve and inherent need to be polite baffling.

“I started approaching UK PRs and fashion ‘incubators’ (business development programmes designed to support the next generation of fashion designers) by explaining that I knew the UK market and had a whole raft of international designers to introduce to influencers but that I needed strategic partners to get them a platform in the UK. Then I’d ask, ‘What’s your agenda? Can we help you reach new key audiences?’ By collaborating with brands both large and small, from make-up brands to model agencies to the likes of Coca-Cola and Land Rover, we were able to create high-profile events that would have been impossible for many smaller brands on their own, and a logistical nightmare for a novice fashion designer. 

“In Istanbul, the process was different again. There, fledgling Turkish fashion brands needed international exposure, which I could offer. Acknowledging the local culture, however, I decided to bring in an older Turkish female business partner and three Turkish male business partners to help me sell the business in. Essentially, I took a sideways step to comply with local business protocol.

“Every time we take on a partner, I make point of sharing our branding tool kit and ask for theirs in return. It helps each party understand the other’s brand, from their tone on Twitter to how flexible they are with the colours of their logo, for instance. We get these small pieces of the puzzle in place first because then everyone knows the ground rules and what’s expected of them – whether we’re working in Florida or Germany or Latvia. When you collaborate with multiple brands, it becomes an essential part of the process. So far it’s an approach that has served me well all over the world.

Claire Lavelle Journalist and Content Creator
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