Solar Umi

Shortlisted for the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards Most Entrepreneurial Exporter of the Year Award, we meet Ian Emberton from Xerogrid to tell us about the company and how making friends around the world is the easiest part of exporting.

What does your company do? 

Xerogrid designs, supplies, installs and exports “off grid “electricity generation systems using solar, wind and batteries for people who don’t have access to electricity or have very unreliable supplies.  

When was your company launched, who by and why? 

Launched in March 2017 by motorcycle race engine tuner Ian Emberton, who had bought a rural renovation project in Valencia, Spain, when the grid connection fee was €30,000. Ian designed and built his own solar powered system as a green and more peaceful alternative to using a diesel generator. 

Many of the locals were impressed, and Ian was soon installing systems for them around the village. Seeing an opportunity to deliver high specification bespoke systems, he soon started building the business up. Surprisingly in the UK as well as Spain, where rural grid connections were hugely expensive. 

How long has the company been exporting? 

Since 2017  

What do you currently export, and where to? 

We export every single component to build an off grid generation system; Solar panels, Specialist, inverters, solar Chargers, batteries communication gear, cables, connectors, tools, zip ties, nuts, bolts general electrical items.  

We export to : 

Ghana  

Spain  

Nigeria  

France  

Togo  

Cameroon  

What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take? 

The original idea was to work on the Spanish market, but I was approached by a UK based Ghanaian business lady, who was doing a project in Ghana…. 

6 months later Im on her roof fitting 420 solar panels !! 

What is the easiest part of exporting? 

Making friends around the world.   

What is the export challenge you’re most proud of overcoming? How did you manage this? 

Developing our own fully in house freight forwarding systems to ship into Nigeria, who have very complex product quality and certification systems, that many are scared to deal with.  

Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and how did it help you? 

The UKDIT are fantastic. We are privileged to have our own export advisor. 

Natwest Bank supported us with Entrepreneur business accelerator  

What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets? 

Understand not just the market, but the way people work, do business, their beliefs, culture and be respectful.  

Get the paperwork right !!  

UKDIT and HMRC are super helpful  

Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in five years’ time? 

We aim to establish distribution and installation partnerships in Ghana and Nigeria, as well as developing Xerogrid Espana with full time staff in all 3 locations.  

How do you feel about being shortlisted for the Northern Powerhouse Export Awards and what does it mean to your business?  

Its an honour. The whole team is quite rightly proud of being recognised for what we have achieved and what we aim to achieve in the future.  

We are really thankful for the support of UMi for organising the event and all the sponsors. Were looking forward to meeting all the finalists one day at the later event and hope to learn from and collaborate with many of them.  

Amanda Armstrong
Article by Amanda Armstrong
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