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.
The business, operating from the Old Brewery at Craw Hall, was set up by Drew Landsborough and Mara Eagle in 1995 to make hand-painted stained glass art reproductions, static ‘clings’ printed on fine art film, mirrors and paper weights.
It was already supplying the Centres des Monuments Nationaux with stained glass window reproductions sold at a handful of sites including the Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Paris.
But the volume of business reached the point where it was required to take part in a competitive tendering exercise.
Mara said: “They sent us a whole series of documents, about 50 pages, all in French.
“Our adviser at the Department for International Trade put us in with a local translator, Sylvie Jefferson, who was wonderful. But we were given only a fortnight to complete the process and had to ask for more time.”
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 the Centres des Monuments Nationaux.
Undaunted, she 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 gave us several pointers and suggestions.
“It was a nerve-wracking wait but the Ministry of Culture came back after six weeks and awarded us the contract.
“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.”
Winged Heart, which employs 11 people, also exports to Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the US.
Closer to home, its products can be found at Canterbury and St Paul’s Cathedrals, Westminster Abbey, York Minster, the British Museum and Houses of Parliament, and at Carlisle Cathedral, Tullie House Museum, Hill Top and The World of Beatrix Potter.
Winged Heart’s French breakthrough comes just as the Government launched its Export Strategy, designed to encourage more businesses to export.
Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “Businesses like Winged Heart are an inspiration. But I’m glad to say they’re not alone.
“In the last five years, the Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub has helped 550 Cumbrian exporters including 200 businesses that hadn’t exported before.
“The Chamber itself offers an export documentation service. Last year we helped Cumbrian businesses export £57m worth of goods all across the globe including to Turkey, Russia, China and South America.
“I’d urge any potential exporter to get in touch and we will talk through the support available. Exporting is a great way to grow your business.”