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How a one-woman micro-business approached new import rules, now that the UK has left the EU

Credit: The Ives
Credit: The Ives

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Starting a micro-business from scratch has been a steep learning curve for Trudy Armel, after she decided the relaxing magnesium oil she made for her son was good enough to sell.

A little over a year later and The Ives now sells a range of products all designed to soothe anxiety, aid sleep, and help people through the ever-changing journey of modern life, all inspired by Trudy’s own experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was made redundant around Christmas 2020 and set up my own business, a website where I sell products I manufacture myself,” she tells Yahoo Finance.

“I discovered during the pandemic that my four-year-old son was very anxious and not sleeping, so I began to read about magnesium and the positive effects it has on the whole body, particularly on sleep.

“We did a nightly magnesium foot massage on him which worked wonders. He could talk about his daily worries during this time. I see it as bedtime bonding moments where you can talk to your children, or self-care moments if you're doing it on yourself, where you can stop and think about the day to help your own anxiety.”

Trudy started from scratch, sourcing materials, manufacturing the product and getting it to customers all by herself. This also included adapting to new UK import and export rules.

Credit: The Ives
Credit: The Ives

“I didn't have anything. I needed bottles, I needed the ingredients, the labels – a production line basically, which I didn't have because I was working at home.

“I researched a lot of bottle companies and wanted to use glass – there was no way I wanted to ship out a load of plastic bottles all over the world, so it had to be glass.

“I needed a particular glass roller ball which I eventually found in Germany. That's when I came across importing and exporting, because I wanted to ship my product to Germany and Spain.”

New rules came into effect on 1 January 2022 that apply to micro-businesses, even if they only import or export one or two small batches a year.

One of the most important regulations is the Rules of Origin, which determines the national origin of a product. This could mean it can be imported or exported at preferential rates under the UK-EU trade agreement.

To do this, you must have proof that goods you bring into the UK from the EU originate there, and that goods you export to the EU originate in the UK.

The Government has extensive guidance on how to find and obtain this proof. You’ll also need to find out the commodity code for your goods, their value and whether you can either reduce or delay the amount of Customs Duty you owe due to the trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

There are additional licences and certificates needed for high-risk, dangerous or potentially hazardous materials such as (but not limited to, see the full list here) medicines, animal and plant products, and waste.

The next step is to ensure everything is labelled correctly and then you’re ready to bring your goods from the EU through customs.

“It is just a process - once you've figured it out, it's not that complicated,” explains Trudy. “If you know your product, you're fine. And there are people out there who can help.”

Trudy has some advice for anyone new to the process – speak to your supplier about what they know as they’ll have been dealing with the new rules on a day-to-day basis since they were introduced.

“Don't solely rely on that because they may not know the full facts for your country, but definitely speak to them. They’re trying to ship out to various countries so they have a good view of it all.”

If you’re moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Rules of Origin work differently. Contact the Trader Support Service for up-to-date guidance and support.

The information in this article was correct at the time of publication