If you love what you do, your clients will feel it too. Mietka Zieba is an export advisor who’s passionate about her role, and it shows. Her secret talent is being able to connect with any client, no matter their background. Based in Smithers, she has supported a wide range of businesses in the Pacific Northwest to grow beyond B.C.
Being an export advisor is its own journey and along the way, Mietka has gained a lot of valuable experience in the exporting world. In this interview, Mietka talks about what her clients have been up to, her advice for aspiring exporters, and more.
Export Navigator: Hi Mietka, good to catch up with you! Can you introduce yourself and talk a bit about the businesses you mainly work with?
Mietka: I am the export advisor for the Pacific Northwest. In my role, I help businesses in my region diversify their markets. My clients are quite varied – some work in consumer goods, others in agritech, Indigenous arts, mining, and so on. Right now, I’m particularly interested in green tech (reforestation), sustainable agrifood, and consumer goods. One of my clients that falls into this category uses agricultural drones for reforestation purposes. It’s great to see companies in my region pursuing this complex, but rewarding type of product to export.
Another client of mine farms and processes kelp. The seaweed industry is not only popular on Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii but is also gaining traction internationally. As people are looking for healthier alternatives in food nowadays, seaweed and kelp is a versatile option. It’s nutrient dense – a superfood of sorts. I discovered you can even make gluten-free lasagna using kelp leaves! While this client is mainly focusing on developing local markets at the moment, she exported a sample of kelp fertilizer and met with quite a few importers already. They’ve all expressed a high level of interest in what she’s doing, so exporting is definitely on the radar for her.
Export Navigator: What is your professional background and how does it tie into your current role?
Mietka: My educational background is in sociology and psychology. I’m originally from Poland and after moving to Canada, I took international trade development courses. Before Export Navigator, I worked in international project development for a federal Crown corporation.
More specifically, I was leading the development and implementation of international export strategies for wooden frames in the housing industry. This included promoting Canadian wooden frame technology, codes and standards, and professional services targeted towards Eastern European markets.
All of my past experiences have shaped my export advising career in one way or another. I think it’s necessary to have both the interpersonal skills and the exporting knowledge to be an effective advisor.
Export Navigator: How would you describe your advising style/approach to working with clients?
Mietka: I wouldn’t say I have one approach that I take when working with clients, because everyone is different. For example, the way I work with startups is different from how I work with more established companies. With startups, they’re usually in the beginning stages of exporting so the process is more linear. That’s why I’m proactive in finding and sending my startup clients useful resources. It’s a relationship where building trust and credibility is very important. Whereas with other exporters, the preferred approach generally leans towards being straightforward, factual and business-based. I also take into consideration my client’s cultural background which informs me on how to best work with them, and make them feel comfortable.
Export Navigator: What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Mietka: There’s no better way to expand your horizons nationally or internationally than by exporting. My main piece of advice is to be mentally prepared when it comes to exporting. A positive mindset goes a long way in helping you sustain a long and sometimes challenging export journey. It’s also important to keep up with the export ecosystem. Being knowledgeable about current business developments applicable to your business can get you ahead of the competition.
Thinking of exporting? Find an advisor in your region today and discover what opportunities are available to you.