‘You can learn it all yourself’

Many business owners think exporting is intimidating. But, by adopting a DIY mentality, Chanchala Gunewardena, founder of a Sri Lankan syrup brand, got on top of it and increased her revenues.
Chanchala Gunewardena 16x9 hero

It's a hard time to run a business that relies on exporting. But it was always going to be a key part of Chanchala Gunewardena's brand, Kimbula Kithul – kithul being the Sri Lankan treacle-style syrup she sells. ‘I'm a single founder trying to do everything, but you can learn it all yourself,’ she insists. 

1. Where to start

The documentation isn't too challenging, once you get your head around it. ‘We needed to get product tests done, especially because our product is a liquid and a non-familiar product. We also had to have a material safety document that showed that it could travel safely on a plane,’ Chanchala explains. She also quickly found that labeling was crucial. ‘There are country-specific labeling needs and nutritional labeling; you need to know the metrics that each country uses.’

2. Scaling up

The next hurdle is trying to figure out a shipment size. ‘It's essentially how many of your products you can lock together in a shipment, without it being too heavy or at risk of breaking.’ Still, larger shipments give you more negotiating power and better price options.  

3. Know your stuff

Professionalizing an export business shows your supply-chain partners that you know what you're doing. ‘A lot of companies throw hidden costs your way, like duties and testing fees. When you know what you're talking about, you get good service from them.’ 

For our ‘25 big lessons from small business’ series, we scoured the world to find inspiring people to share the lessons they've learned from running their own companies. Click here to read the other stories.

This special feature was first published in Courier issue 45, February/March 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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