Charlotte’s international dissertation shows she’s First Class


The barriers facing small businesses when seeking international markets, especially through exporting, was the subject of a dissertation by a Chamber International intern, Charlotte Macdowell (pictured below), who spent two months as part of the team this spring.

Charlotte, 23, who was studying International Business at University of Leeds, gained a first for her dissertation, Exploring Managerial Decision-Making As A Barrier To Export For UK SMEs, Including The Impact of Brexit; researched during her time at Chamber International and this accounted for a third of her final year grade and First Class Degree when she graduated in July.

Chamber International gave Charlotte practical advice on the scope of her research including that it could cover strategic planning and preparation among small businesses for Brexit when the UK finally leaves the EU on March 29 2019.

Charlotte says: “I had decided to research barriers to international expansion for UK small businesses as part of my dissertation and, in order to produce high-value research, I required high-value data. Contacting businesses through CI resulted in more willing management interviewees as opposed to the alternative which would have been cold calling.” 

Charlotte interviewed 16 managers of different the UK food and drink industry companies and a study of their managerial decision making showed that they could be divided into three different types relating to their international focus, drivers for expansion and views on Brexit. Managers were further categorised into four main decision-making styles.

Charlotte, who is originally from Suffolk and now lives and works in Leeds, says: “One of the most surprising findings was that, as overseas distributors and retailers seek UK-produced food, many SMEs, which hadn’t previously considered exporting, were able to do so and the distributors’ expertise appealed to those with a low-risk profile while others combined a bolder proactive and reactive approach.

“My internship was extremely useful. Chamber International allowed me access to its extensive client list for interviews. Also the support I had from senior members of the team was crucial in ensuring that my topics were relevant rather than purely theoretical.

“They added to the direction and quality of my dissertation and its relevance to the business world which contributed the high grade it achieved.  It was really great to work alongside Chamber International and learn more about international trade while carrying out my own dissertation.

“I’m very interested in international trade and, with Brexit on the horizon, it was interesting to discover the different feelings and actions within the Chamber International team.“