Four firms from the West Midlands got to pitch for business at the developers of the world famous Burj Khalifa and The Palm in Dubai after winning a Birmingham Post competition.
Two manufacturers, a film production firm and a recruitment company were flown out to the emerging Emirate and met some of its most prestigious businesses.
Among the companies they met were Emaar, which built the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, and Nakheel, the company behind the world’s largest land reclamation islands.
All four businesses are considering expanding into the United Arab Emirates after the four-day trip following a Dragons’ Den-style competition, organised by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in association with the Post.
Erdington-based Surestop, which has created a switch to turn off the mains supply of water, had such a successful meeting with Emaar that a second was organised the next day.
Sales director Notel O’Donnell said it had opened doors that would not have been possible to enter before.
He said: “The first thing it emphasised was the value of coming over here and talking to people. We have had some really useful feedback. We have achieved more here in three days than would ever be possible online.
“I think there are opportunities for us here and we know the areas they are in. There are new homes being built and that means there is potential for us. There is no way if we hadn’t been part of this trade mission that we would be able to meet someone like Emaar.”
The Surestop was invented by the firm’s technical director Martin Dalton, who also made the trip to Dubai, and is used by housing associations, builders and local authorities in the UK to prevent water damage and to save water.
While Surestop was seeking an opportunity to distribute in Dubai, recruitment firm Alexander Daniels was examining the possibility of setting up an office to expand into the Middle East.
The company faced difficulties in establishing in parts of Dubai, as licences are no longer being granted to recruitment firms in some free zones – areas which are treated as offshore, which can mean less taxation.
However, director Nick Pearce said there were still potentially profitable opportunities.
He said: “We are quite a young business so for us this presented an opportunity to explore whether Dubai is a suitable market for our next office opening.
“We have plans to grow as a business and while initially they were to grow in the UK this gave us an opportunity to explore international growth.
“For us to do that we would have to establish a profile in Dubai, which in itself presents challenges in costs and risks from a personnel perspective. They are substantial challenges but Dubai, as an economy, is still growing.”
Mr Pearce and Alexander Daniels senior consultant Richard Smith visited the Dubai International Financial Centre and Knowledge Village, which are both free zones.
Mr Pearce added: “We have got a board meeting next week and we will present our findings and discuss whether or not this is a viable option.’’
Another entrepreneur to look into the possibility of establishing in a free zone was Fay Goodman, founder of production firm Goodmedia, who visited the Media City freezone and music giant EMI.
She said: “I wanted to see if we could promote our music and film over here. We are very well-placed in the UK but there is a growing market in Dubai and it would be a fantastic opportunity.
"I would like to be in a position to set up a little office here but because you have got to be very careful to take one step at a time and get the right contacts and opportunities.”
Six entrepreneurs from the four businesses were flown out by Emirates Airlines and stayed in the five-star Bonnington Jumeirah Lake Tower Hotel.
Drivers were organised with Dubai firm Orient Tours, and visits were also laid on to law firm DLA Piper, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, as well as dinner at the Address Hotel in Dubai Marina.
The fourth business to take part in the Dubai trip was Coventry-based Fab & Fix, which makes hardware for doors and windows, like handles and hinges.
International marketing executive Tatiana Khrisanova met two distributors, as well as the two developers, with a view to supplying across the Middle East.
She said: “It has gone very well. I hope we have found the right people to take our products and distribute in the area.
“We already had some contacts from the area and potential interest but you have got to be over here to meet people. From here we can expand further into the Gulf area, like Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.
“It is an attractive area to be involved with, with the Indian subcontinent, Egypt and North Africa nearby.”