FACE-to-face business is the key to exporting - that was the message from three female entrepreneurs at a York event aimed at encouraging women to trade overseas.

As part of Export Week, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and Forward Ladies joined forces to host an event yesterday at York Science Park, to encourage and inspire women to take their business to the world.

Around 40 delegates heard from Suzie de Rohan Willner, former chief executive of shoe brand Fitflop, Anne Wilson, managing director of precision engineering firm Numill, and Carolyn Pearson, founder of female travel network Maiden Voyage.

Anne Wilson, who started working at Numill as a book keeper before being part of a management buyout, has increase the company's export figures from 18 per cent of turnover to 40 per cent.

She said: "Export isn't rocket science. It isn't difficult, it's just different.

"You must go to visit your market and share your passion. You can't get across your passion for your product in an email or over the phone. I cannot exaggerate the importance of those face-to-face relationships."

Describing herself as an "accidental entrepreneur", Carolyn Pearson founded Maiden Voyage to provide women with recommendations for safe travel after a business trip to LA on her own, and now has members in 60 different countries.

She said: "Trading internationally has been a dream. We, as a nation, are very cynical, so I often say if you can do business in the UK you can do it anywhere.

"Exporting can be all consuming though. You are dealing with people in different times zones that want to be in contact with you, and you can soon find yourself in demand around the clock. It's important you make sure you get a work, life balance."

Suzie de Rohan Willner was chief executive for Fitflop, following a career in international sales for global fashion brands.

She said: "We make business quite difficult, but at the end of the day it's all about the people. Get out there and get as close to your customers as you can. And be yourself, that is the key message."

Suzie told delegates there are a number of stages to successful trading internationally, starting with creating a strong brand identity, surrounding yourself by positive people and networking, finding a balance between creating strong foundations for your business while being flexible to accommodate foreign cultures, carrying out research and having confidence in yourself and your brand.