Export prize for language tutors

A DERBYSHIRE company that specialises in providing customised language courses for business is this year's winner of the Livewire Export Challenge, supported by Shell UK and Bass, the brewing company. Jane Weightman, the proprietor, receives a pounds 1,000 cash prize, free return flights to the European destination of her choice and five nights' hotel accommodation.

Ms Weightman was one of 10 young owner-managers who battled it out in a contest designed to help young businesses start exporting. The initiative is one of many programmes co-ordinated by Live- wire, a national youth enterprise scheme backed by Shell. The awards ceremony, held in Leicester this month, was the culmination of 10 months of work. The pro-cess began last November with 50 businesses undergoing a three-day residential training course. Those that then produced the most viable export strategy and plan were selected for the next stage - an expenses-paid, five-day trade mission to Amsterdam, Antwerp, Paris, Bologna, Madrid, Brussels or Hamburg.

On their return, the Livewire advisory support service helped them to develop the openings and opportunities created. Ten of the 11 businesses that went have since made substantial contacts, appointing agents and distributors in target markets, seven have made sales, and 10 have either returned or have plans to go back to the cities they visited.

Ms Weightman, who started Commercial Language Training five years ago to teach business people in the Chesterfield area foreign languages, travelled to Hamburg. She was judged the winner because of her success in meeting her objectives. She set out to arrange meetings with leading companies in the city and to establish links with companies that had operations in Yorkshire and the Midlands but were based in Germany, with a view to selling the benefits of taking English courses while visiting UK plants. She aimed to return home with five confirmed orders. In the event, she had four intensive English courses booked for senior executives of two German companies and secured valuable contacts with another two. Lecturers from Kokkola University in Finland also attended courses. Ms Weightman said: "Participating in the Livewire Export Challenge has not only given me confidence but also loads of enthusiasm to develop the export side of my business. I intend to use my prize to revisit Germany and am extremely hopeful that this trip will be as successful as the first."

The two runners-up in this second annual challenge were Huddersfield- based Peter Woodbine, which makes seat covers, equipment bags and other specialist textile products, and Sue Petrovic and Sue Newberry-Tarrier's NTB Information Technology, which produces computer products for organisations that care for people with learning difficulties. It is based at Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire.