Ace exporters ready to pass on expertise and experience 

January 5, 2023

A new crop of exporters keen to pass on their knowledge to other businesses have been named Export Champions by the Department for International Trade (DIT)

Three businesses from the Marches area are represented amongst the champions, who will offer peer-to-peer support to companies looking to start selling overseas. 

Mark Thompson of AceOn and Richard Harris from the Smartwater Group, both based in Telford, and Nicholas van der Walle and Camilla Jones from Hereford-based Astute Graphics are on the list of 400 new champions nationwide. 

The Export Champions scheme is run by the Department for International Trade and links experienced exporters with those just starting out in overseas markets. Champions share their expertise and promote the benefits of exporting. 

The 28 champions named across the West Midlands region represent a wide cross-section of industry sectors. Their work will complement the services of DIT and will motivate and assist other businesses to start exporting while continuing to win new international business and reach out to new markets themselves. 

Mark Thompson, founder and managing director of battery specialists AceOn Group, is a previous winner of the UKTI Growth for Export award. AceOn has a long track record of exporting to several countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and is now working on a new outlet in South America. 

Mark said: “Understanding your market is, of course, always key. For exports, it’s important to also understand that each country is different and understanding what documents are required and trading terms is essential. 

“That may sound daunting, but it’s also essential to remember that you’re not alone.” 

Astute Graphics are leaders in cutting-edge design software which makes drawing fun and makes it easier to make on the fly changes. The internet-based business has been exporting since its very first sale back in 2006, and exports now account for 90 per cent of revenue. 

Owner Nicholas van der Walle and marketing director Camilla Jones will be passing on their knowledge to others looking to export a unique product. Nicholas said: “Top tip for exporters – always reach out to DIT for advice first!  

“Research will always be key and can help prove or disprove any initial gut feelings about the potential of any country or region. Exports can ensure significantly faster revenue growth but see it as a long-term investment just like any other asset such as machinery, employees or Infrastructure.” 

The Smartwater Group’s technological “fingerprint” innovation, which marks property with a unique and tamper-proof code, has made a major contribution to law enforcement and creating safer communities since its launch. The company has been exporting into Europe since 2009 and the USA since 2012 and now has a dedicated European arm. Exports make up 20 per cent of turnover and the firm has realistic plans to boost that to 35 per cent by 2026. 

Director of technical services Richard Harris will now be using his knowledge of all aspects of the business to show other firms how each function can support their international trade. 

The Export Champions will offer one-to-one mentoring as well as getting involved with events such as local exporting showcases, hosting tours of their business for new exporters and inspiring exporters of the future through schools or university business departments. 

For more information about services and assistance offered by the Department for International Trade, visit  

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The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership has now ceased trading and transferred all its functions to Shropshire Council working with Telford & Wrekin Council and Herefordshire Council, in line with the UK Government's plans for devolution.

The Marches LEP was established in 2011 and hands over an impressive legacy from its 13-year life. In that time the LEP invested over £196m in projects across the Marches, securing in excess of £100m of match funding and supported more than 66,000 business interactions.

The schemes supported have made tangible differences to local communities, increasing skills, creating jobs and improving the physical appearance of many towns.

We would like to thank all the LEP Board Members who have given their time freely over the life of the LEP, as well as all the staff who worked for the LEP over the years. We also want to thank our delivery partners, local education providers and local, regional and national stakeholders who helped us achieve so much.

The Marches Growth Hub will continue to support businesses and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford and Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Each of the three Local Authorities will also continue to provide direct business support locally. Details of this support will be available through the Marches Growth Hub website and from the Local Authorities directly. Website: | email:

The Marches Careers Hub will continue to be delivered and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Website: | email:

For any queries about Getting Building Fund (GBF), Local Growth Fund (LGF) and Marches Investment Fund (MIF) projects supported by the Marches LEP please contact:

For any finance queries please contact:

The solvent liquidation of the Marches LEP is being managed by the Evelyn Partners Limited. For any matter related to this please contact:

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