Jewellery box creator pirouettes to export success

Ballet leads to overseas boost for Birmingham designer.

A former social worker from Birmingham, who launched a line of musical jewellery boxes featuring black ballerinas, is achieving huge exporting success – thanks to Department for International Trade experts.

Sharon McBean, who lives in Birmingham, launched Nia Ballerina in August last year and received so many orders from the USA in the run up to Christmas that she had to enlist the help of a fulfilment house in Virginia, USA, to cope with demand.

After meeting Cheryl Boxall, an International Trade Adviser in DIT’s Birmingham office, at a trade show last year, Sharon has taken advantage of exporting support provided by the Department to ensure she is fully equipped with the necessary resources for overseas trading. DIT support included advice on protecting Nia Ballerina intellectual property, internationalising the website and launching a global e-commerce website.

“The fact that Nia Ballerina has experienced such rapid success, particularly in the USA, demonstrates that she has tapped into a gap in the market. DIT has been helping the company from the very beginning and we have continued to offer support as Sharon looks to expand more strategically into new markets. Issues such as intellectual property are crucial in business and this has been an important part of her export experience so far,” Cheryl said.

Sharon came up with the idea for the jewellery boxes after failing to find one for her ballet-mad five-year-old daughter. Realising there was a business opportunity, she hired an illustrator to design two images for the musical jewellery boxes and ordered black ballerina figurines to go inside them.

Following her initial success, which included selling more than 1,000 boxes to US buyers in just a few weeks during the Christmas period, Sharon is now in the process of designing new jewellery boxes and creating new lines to complement them. She has also collaborated with US-based organisation Brown Girls Do Ballet.

Sharon said: “The past few months have been absolutely overwhelming. I never imagined that these jewellery boxes would become so popular so quickly. They have proved a major success in the USA in particular, accounting for about 80% of sales over the Christmas period. I’m looking to see how we can continue growing sales there, building on the success we’ve has thus far. I’m grateful to Cheryl and the team at DIT because without that support I’m not sure I would have been able to prepare my business for overseas trading so quickly. I’ll continue working with DIT and plan to tap into African markets such as Ghana and South Africa next.”

Any company interested in breaking into overseas markets, and taking advantage of the global appetite for UK goods and services, should visit the new online trade hub,, part of the Government’s Exporting is GREAT initiative. is a single digital destination for trade and investment, bringing together and connecting UK businesses, international buyers and international investors. Whether businesses are new, occasional or frequent exporters, they will be able to take advantage of a suite of tools and exclusive deals.