Artisan giftware products made in Cumbria are set to go on sale at historic monuments right across France.
Winged Heart, of Brampton, has clinched a potentially lucrative contract with Centres des Monuments Nationaux – the French equivalent of English Heritage – despite the Brexit uncertainty surrounding trade with the EU.
But it was far from plain sailing.
The business, operating from the Old Brewery at Craw Hall, was set up by Drew Landsborough and his wife Mara Eagle in 1995.
Its seven full-time and four part-time employees make hand-painted stained glass art reproductions, static ‘clings’ printed on fine art film, mirrors and paper weights, including a Beatrix Potter range and designs by the famous Glaswegian architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Winged Heart was already supplying the Centres des Monuments Nationaux with growing numbers of stained glass window reproductions sold at a handful of sites including the Cathédrale Notre-Dame and Sainte Chapelle, both in Paris.
But the volume of business had reached a threshold where it was required to enter a competitive tendering regime.
Mara explained: “We had to go through this because we’d reached a critical point. Centres des Monuments Nationaux wouldn’t have been able place larger orders from us if we hadn’t done it.”
Nothing prepared her for what came next.
“We got a whole series of documents, about 50 pages in French,” she said. “First of all it was a matter of trying to understand what they were after.
“Sandra Thornber, our adviser at the Department for International Trade, put us in touch with a local translator, Sylvie Jefferson. We prepared our answers in English then Sylvie translated them into French. She was wonderful.
“We were given only a fortnight to complete the process and had to ask for more time. Then we had to upload our responses onto a French government website so any interested parties could have a look.”
Mara is full of praise for the help received from the Department for International Trade but it didn’t have anyone who could advise specifically on the tendering process at Centres des Monuments Nationaux.
Undaunted, Mara called the British Embassy in Paris to see if they could help.
She said: “I got through to a lady who not only knew of us and had bought our products when she lived in Scotland but had enjoyed holidays in Brampton before she moved to Paris. What are the chances of that?
“She put us in touch with a consultant in Bordeaux who was very good on the tendering process. He gave us several pointers and suggestions.
“On his advice we added a statement about who we are. This wasn’t required by the tender but he thought it was important to explain that all our products are made by hand here in Brampton. The French really appreciate that.”
After the tender went in, Centres des Monuments Nationaux asked for additional information, including evidence that Winged Heart had paid all the UK taxes it was liable for.
Mara said: “It was a nerve-wracking wait but the Ministry of Culture came back after six weeks and awarded us the contract.
“It runs for five years and then we’ll have to go through the process again.
“It will give us an opportunity to get into more sites with the Centres des Monuments Nationaux and we hope it will open doors with other French cultural organisations such as the Réunion de Musées Nationaux.”
France isn’t the only overseas market targeted by Winged Heart. It exports to Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the US.
Its products can be found in Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, Florence’s Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and in the UK at Canterbury and St Paul’s Cathedrals, Westminster Abbey, York Minster, the British Museum and Houses of Parliament.
Closer to home they are sold at Carlisle Cathedral, Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, Hill Top at Near Sawrey and The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness.
Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is a great example of how fantastic products from Cumbria are reaching customers far beyond the county.
“As Mara’s story shows, the right help is invaluable.
“So I’d encourage anyone, whether thinking of exporting for the first time or more experienced, to get in touch.
The Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub provides a wealth of assistance to new and existing exporters like Winged Heart, whatever their size or sector.
We offer workshops, export masterclasses, online video tutorials plus information on trade shows, introductions, access to export finance and insurance, discounted flights for exporters and access to the Chamber’s export documentation service.
We can also link you into the local business community in your chosen markets through the international Chamber of Commerce network and put you in touch with the Department for International Trade to help begin your export journey or, if you export already, target new markets.
For more information call Catherynn Dunstan on 0844 257 84 50 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP. The Growth Hub is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce