Business: Julia Gash aiming high in the Big Apple

Julia Gash
Julia Gash

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” sang Sinatra.

But Sheffield businesswoman Julia Gash wasn’t sure if she wanted to be a part of it - until she went on a trade mission to New York.

She joined four other Yorkshire businesswoman chosen by Santander bank to visit the US and see what they could make of a string of pre-arranged meetings with business gurus in the Big Apple.

Those conversations left Julia, boss of Sheffield eco-bag firm Bag It Don’t Bin It, feeling king of the hill.

After striking deals to sell thousands of bags, she’s now planning to go the whole hog - and set up a factory stateside.

Her plan is to replicate the business she has in Sheffield, where she employs 16 at a factory on Rutland Road.

She said: “It wasn’t on my radar at all - my life was complicated enough - now I think life would be more complicated if I didn’t.

“The economy here is struggling and there’s less and less support for business. It’s obvious every day that the challenges are mounting and although we’ve got a turnover of more than £1m we’re strapped for cash all the time.

“We have to pay our suppliers in India up front - it’s part of the Fair Trade agreement - but our clients are pushing terms from 60 to 90 days.

“Over there the economy is growing and they don’t have the debt we have in Europe. They also have a very different approach to supporting business. In New York state they offer a five year package of state aid. I can’t believe how good it is.

“I decided on my fourth day to go for it - state officials were just so ‘can do’.”

Julia said the trip showed her that Bag It Don’t Bin It has a key position in the UK market thanks to her background in print making and a ‘lifetime’ in creative printing.

And because she has worked in the fashion industry she can interpret the needs of fashion brands.

The firm supplies House of Fraser, Selfridges and Lush among many others.

She added: “The US has quite a basic offer.”

Now the plan is to open an office and showroom within six months followed by a factory to serve the east coast, possibly in New York State, within a year.

She is already advertising for a senior salesperson to take over the big accounts so Julia can focus on the US.

She added: “I wasn’t thinking about exporting at all. I even had a meeting with UKTI in December where I decided against it.

“I’ve exported before and even won an award in the 1990s but I just didn’t think it applied to bags.

“Now everyone is buzzing, all staff will have an opportunity to have stints over there and train up the locals - we are going for the American Dream.”