Photo credit: Armen Tamzarian

Humeyra Karsli doesn’t believe that one day you just become an entrepreneur, she believes that it’s something you are born with, and with some life events pushing her into the entrepreneurial direction, it’s the path she has chosen for herself. Humeyra is President and Founder of Atlantic Trade Bridge, a business facilitator between North America, Turkey and Middle East. Humeyra represented Canada as a G20 Young Entrepreneur Summit delegate a few months ago in Istanbul, Turkey and to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week she wanted to share a bit about her experience working beyond Canadian borders.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I moved to Montreal 10 years ago when I graduated from the French high school Saint Joseph in Istanbul. I studied international relations at the University of Montréal where I had a lot of time to observe trends that are shaping the world and international institutions. I believed that much more could be and should be done to bring countries and economies together.

After graduation, my entrepreneurial ambitions were put on hold when I joined Cirque de Soleil’s Foundation ONE DROP as the special events manager, a position that I held for 3.5 years before moving to Cavalia to develop U.S. markets. At the same time, I was involved with the Junior Board of Commerce of Montreal (La Jeune Chambre de Commerce de Montréal) as the director of entrepreneurship where I worked with a lot of Canadian start-ups who were really interested in the Turkish market, but in terms of going international they didn’t know where to begin. I realized that a lot of companies needed guidance and so it was the perfect timing for me to bring that solution.

What has your experience been like working beyond Canadian borders? 

Atlantic Trade Bridge is doing great so far and it’s very rewarding to help companies expand globally. Creating or strengthening international trade is good for economy, politics and cultural relations between Canada and foreign markets, so it’s winner on many aspects.

From my perspective, when you want to take a bit from the global pie, you have to stay focused, be sensitive to the local and international context, and have some reliable local sources to provide relevant insight.

Chasing down every market opportunity around the globe might seem attractive, but narrowing down turns out to be, most of the time, a much more efficient strategy. Working internationally requires a discipline method and very volatile working hours, and the learning curve is steep so I work with local experts around the globe to protect my clients’ best interests.

Often though secondary, language and cultural barriers are by far the biggest challenges in going overseas. In fact, if you target one of the fifteen emerging markets, you’ll quickly realize that customers speak little to no English. My international background is a great asset here, besides covering English, French and Turkish speaking markets, my local partners help me ensure communications in Arabic and Russian too. Beyond language, Atlantic Trade Bridge specializes in the business know-how and best work practices between Canada, Turkey and Middle East.

Why do you feel it’s important for businesses to consider growing whether in a small or large scale?

Because it’s 2015! The world is changing and with the combination of internet, globalization and emerging markets, any company (yes, I am also talking to start-ups) can compete internationally.

Over 90% of the worlds consumers live outside the U.S., the purchasing power and increasing needs of these emerging markets represent endless opportunities for start-ups, small and mid-size companies.

If you had advice for entrepreneurs looking to grow their business (whether locally or internationally), what would it be?

Growing a business can seem a long way, especially when it’s at an international scale. There is no “magic recipe” but like most journeys, global expansion can be boiled down to a series of steps. Here are my basic steps:

1) One size doesn’t fit all. Your local business plan and strategy will probably not work in foreign markets. So take time to evaluate your needs and set your goals. A specialists help would be crucial at this point to validate the feasibility of your projections.

2) Don’t assume. Conduct market research and identify the potential of the international market before targeting the clients. Strategy and prospecting come way after the research step, so take your time to understand the market.

3) The findings of the market analysis will help you decide on the best strategy to prioritize to expand. There are a variety of means for going global such as opening sales channels to distribute your product, offering your services to find a local business partner, setting up a joint venture, or reaching out to potential clients. Don’t be afraid to test the waters.

4) It might be made in Canada but is it made for THEM? Adjust your product or service. Don’t underestimate the cultural, social, legal and economic differences.

5) Regulations. From IT to clothing, cosmetics and food, make sure your goods or services are in accordance with local regulations of the foreign market. Now with globalization, transportation is easier than ever, but if you burn that step of validating the regulations, you can lose money and time.

For any questions, feel free to reach out to Humeyra at: hak@atlantictradebridge.com  

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