TCS business delegations help woman-owned law firm expand into new markets

Rachel Bunbury’s small business has seen transformative international expansion since its establishment. Through leveraging opportunities with the Trade Commission Service (TCS), Rachel was able to develop a steadfast client base in the European Union and the UK, and expand into new markets in the U.S.

Bunbury is the Principal, Barrister and Solicitor at Westbury Law, Professional Corporation: a Toronto‑based Business Immigration law firm that helps multinational corporations transfer foreign nationals to Canada. Her corporation has helped clients around the world expand their operations into Canada, working with businesses located in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

Rachel Bunbury
Rachel Bunbury, Principal, Barrister and Solicitor at Westbury Law

Forming international connections

Over the course of three business delegations with the TCS, Bunbury has grown her law firm and gained valuable connections and knowledge. She credits the business delegations with familiarizing her with these international markets and facilitating introductions with key networks in her industry. Bunbury has since built on those invaluable connections to secure contracts with clients based in Germany, conduct business in the UK on a regular basis, and expand her reach in U.S. markets.

Prior to coming to the TCS, Bunbury had an eye out for more opportunities for international growth. She found what she was looking for in the TCS’ Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) trade missions, which she discovered while browsing the Government of Canada websites. Bunbury said that the TCS provided her business with exposure to new markets she “may not have otherwise considered.”

The first business delegation Bunbury embarked on in 2018 was to Germany and the UK. This trip provided her with an initial connection to the European market that resulted in several new clients. During the UK portion of the event, Bunbury attended a conference that facilitated many new business contacts and deepened her ties with the region. In Germany, Bunbury said while there was no conference, trade officials organized multiple targeted business‑to‑business (B2B) meetings for her, which she successfully leveraged into invaluable contacts and clientele in the region. Thanks in part to the business delegation to UK and Germany, a considerable portion of her work at Westbury Law is now based in the EU market.

Subsequently, Bunbury attended business delegations to Baltimore, Maryland and Orlando, Florida, in 2018 and 2019 respectively. At the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Supplier Diversity Conference in Baltimore, Bunbury had the chance to connect with larger companies and corporations in the U.S. and build on her understanding of the American market. During each business delegation she attended, Bunbury tapped into “qualified contacts and resources on the ground” that she “otherwise would not have access to.” Through attending conferences and networking opportunities curated by the TCS, Bunbury now conducts business in many of the regions she visited as part of these missions.

Learning opportunities to influence business strategy and expansion

For Bunbury, the value of these opportunities has not just been in the connections made but also in the knowledge gained. Bunbury believes that “participating in [business delegations] gives insight into which regional markets might be a good fit for your business, giving you an idea of the general business atmosphere in different regions.”

It was at the business delegation to Go for the Greens in Orlando that she learned about the types of companies in that market that might be looking for her professional services. Bunbury uses this particular market intelligence to target her client outreach accordingly. From this mission, Bunbury also discovered that her immigration services were better suited to opportunities in the North-Eastern region of the United States, rather than Florida, supporting a strategic decision to position Westbury Law in a market where it will be more successful.

Bunbury also discussed the importance of the Canadian–European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as being crucial for labour mobility. In some cases, it may facilitate the transfer of qualifying business personnel through exemptions from a Labour Market Impact Assessment. The agreement can also help skilled workers obtain a temporary work permit, which fosters skill transfer from Canada to the EU and vice-versa. Prior to this agreement, these transfer opportunities were harder to obtain. For Rachel, this has meant more European workers wanting to move temporarily to North America as they recognize the opportunity to invest and work in Canada, CETA has had a positive impact on her business by increasing the investment of European companies into Canada and widening her client base.

The business delegation to Germany provided equally valuable insights, as Bunbury had the opportunity to learn which business types were popular in Germany, and importantly, she gained an understanding of the unique characteristics of German business culture. In fact, this knowledge ultimately helped Bunbury win recent contracts with German clients.

Having improved knowledge of these kinds of details, Bunbury said, “provides a good foundation for understanding how to structure your market entry strategy in terms of accessing a particular market.”

Knowledge and information

The TCS‑led business delegations that Rachel Bunbury joined have also provided her with direct learning opportunities. At the Baltimore conference, Bunbury explained, “some sessions offered strategic advice about negotiating business deals with large companies as a small supplier,” while other sessions provided advice on business management from a financial perspective, such as “exploring ways to maximize your working capital or finance your business.”

Bunbury said for other women‑owned small businesses looking to expand into international markets, she “definitely recommend[s] connecting with the TCS as a starting point”. Overall, Ms. Bunbury said working with the TCS has been an “immensely positive experience.” Rachel has made an exemplary use of the knowledge, connections, and experiences afforded by TCS and she and Westbury Law continue to benefit.

“There may be other markets you want to tap into, but as a small business, you may have limited resources available to help you do so. The TCS can help you by giving you access to those resources. The TCS has been very supportive of my business, and trade commissioners may give you ideas for business expansion you may not have considered otherwise,” Bunbury said.

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