Trio takes America: Here’s what our CEO, Claire, got up to on her trip to the USA

Claire Daniels in Chicago

Hi everyone, Claire here, and I thought I’d give you a full rundown of my trip to the US in March. I was very fortunate to have secured funding for this trip through Innovate UK, as part of an innovation project we’re working on, and therefore, seeking expansion into international markets.

My trip was broken into two separate parts; the first week or so, I spent on a trade mission with the Department for Business and Trade, where we visited Indianapolis and Chicago, followed by a week in Austin at SXSW. I had actually planned out the second week first, and then everything fell into place when I was accepted onto the trade mission that took place the week before.

Week 1 in the USA: WIN Trade Mission to Indianapolis and Chicago

As a growing business, I have been engaging with the Department for Business and Trade for some time, with an excellent International Trade Advisor. I became aware that there was a trade mission for female leaders going to the USA in March, as part of the Women’s International Networking Programme. The WIN programme has been empowering women in the UK to expand their business operations overseas, and the programme concluded with the trade mission. Although I wasn’t actually on the WIN programme, I had the opportunity to put myself forward for the trade mission, which I was accepted into in January 2024.

The purpose of the mission was to take female-led businesses that were ready for international expansion, to the USA to network with other businesses and build new business relationships. The first stop of the trip was Indianapolis, as Indiana was the first state to sign a memorandum of understanding with the UK, which is a state-level trade and economic development agreement.

Now I won’t tell you about the part where my luggage didn’t arrive for two days after arriving in Indianapolis, or the fact that I booked the wrong hotel, as it’s just bad luck and not reflective of the trip. Although I did fly Delta, only the week prior, I saw on LinkedIn a post that said Delta – Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive. An omen? Who knows, but I probably won’t fly Delta again without making sure I’ve got essentials with me in my hand luggage.

Anyway, back to the mission and our first stop in Indianapolis. I arrived over the weekend, so I had some time to explore the city with some of the other trade mission delegates. It’s very clean and a nice city – but not much going on. During a couple of days we spent there, we heard from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) about the benefits of setting up a business in Indiana, and I can see why there is a big push to do so. That being said, there are a lot of great statistics proving that Indianapolis is a great place to do business, with a lot of success coming out of both the city and the state, but it’s not exactly where you might see yourself setting up if you’re from the UK.

So during our first full day of the mission, we visited the Indianapolis State Library, which is where we heard from representatives of the IEDC. Following this, we heard from Elevate Ventures, who are supporting businesses in Indiana with funding and also heard some history about the state. In the afternoon, we heard more about the entrepreneurial support available to businesses setting up in Indianapolis from Connect IND, before networking with the Indiana charter of NAWBO, the National Association of Women Business Owners.

On the first day, we met lots of really interesting people and learned a lot about the state of Indiana. The content was great if you’re looking to actually set up a business in Indianapolis. However, I don’t feel that it was geared enough around trading or exporting to Indiana for those of us already established in the UK.

On the second day, we went to Techpoint, a not-for-profit supporting tech companies that is growing Indianapolis as a digital innovation hub. We heard from their team about the work they’re doing with tech companies, before having some time to work in their co-working space. Then, we set off on our coach trip to the bright lights of Chicago.

I have visited Chicago on a business trip in a former life, and I really rate the city. Therefore, it’s always been where I see Trio expanding if we were to open an office in the States. Interestingly, the state of Illinois has not yet signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK, but hopefully, this will come in time.

Again in Chicago, we heard a lot about the benefits of starting a business there. We visited World Business Chicago, heard from the Director of the British American Business Council and had a roundtable discussion with an e-commerce expert. One of the day’s highlights was visiting the Time Out Food Market which was SO GOOD, and chatting with some of the US team who are part of the Department for Business and Trade.

The following two days were all focussed on International Women’s Day, which happened to fall at the end of the week. We went to an IWD event at the 1871 Innovation Hub, followed by an IWD networking event with the NAWBO Chicago chapter. Again, lots of great contacts made and by this point, we were experts at networking!


On the final day in Chicago, we went to a Transatlantic Trailblazers breakfast event at the British Consulate General for Chicago’s residence. This was another great opportunity for networking and to hear about the support and desire to have UK businesses trading in the US. We then went for a stadium tour of Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, followed by an afternoon debrief with the trade mission delegates and the Department for Business and Trade team who had accompanied us.


It was a very action-packed first week, and the jet lag hit me hard. However, I had a great week and the main positive from it was the incredible group of other female business owners on the trip. We formed great relationships and a supportive network that will benefit us all for years to come, I’m sure.

I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to Indianapolis any time soon, but I can absolutely appreciate the benefits it could offer to businesses starting out. It certainly encourages you to think outside the obvious about where you’d want to set up in America.

For me, I’ve never been interested in the New York or LA options, and it’s why I was thrilled to go back to Chicago and realise it’s still as good as I thought it was! I will definitely be getting myself back to Chicago soon to follow up with connections made, and you will really realise the benefit of just your presence in the city/country and how that can benefit you. I went on this mission with an open mind of just making as many connections as possible and I certainly achieved that! Watch this space for any business to come out of it…

To read more about the trade mission, check out this article on the UK Government’s website.

Week 2: SXSW in Austin

Flying to Austin on Saturday, it was a complete whirlwind and such a change up from the week I’d had. On the trade mission, we had every minute of our day planned out, and in Austin, I could be on my own schedule and prioritise my own time. One thing I will say, is the overriding emotion that I felt when I arrived in Austin and didn’t dissipate the whole time I was there, is that it’s overwhelming.

Many people say this about SXSW, but it’s pretty full on when you have three huge festivals (music, film and interactive media) converging together in the same city. The roads are closed, people are out on the streets at all times, you might have to walk 30 minutes to get from one conference to another and in the meantime, you’re walking past bars with bands playing and people walking around with snakes around their neck (yes this actually did happen).


Something I had been told about SXSW was that you have to give in to going with the flow and embracing the serendipity of chance encounters. I definitely found this to be true and met so many interesting people on my trip.

SXSW goes on all over the weekend, so I was straight into things on Sunday after travelling on Saturday. I had learned that although I used the SXSW app to favourite the events I wanted to attend, I actually had to RSVP (for many, I was already too late) or queue for up to an hour to make sure I got in the sessions I wanted.

As I hadn’t realised about RSVP’ing, I spent a lot of time queuing for sessions but luckily always got in! Definitely worth getting in there early if you’re planning on going. I also learned how far-reaching the event is and so it wouldn’t be possible to go to every session I had earmarked. So day 1, I got into the swing of things, collecting my visitor badge and walking around the Creative Industries Expo. It was really interesting to see the type of companies exhibiting; there was such a mix, but also a big pull on AI which is great, as that was my main reason for visiting.

In the afternoon, I went to a really interesting talk on ‘Social Media is dead: Long live culture media’ and it was great hearing from TikTok and one of their partners on the direction that content is going on social media. After this event, I headed over to the UK House, which is hosted by the Department for Business and Trade and acts as a meeting point for all UK delegates, along with hosting their own events. I met some great people here and managed to stay on for a special event where Skepta showcased a new short film he had produced, followed by a live podcast interview and performance. It really goes to show that you do have to just go with the flow, as I had no idea the event was even happening!


The next few days were all a blur; I attended lots of talks on AI, went to some of the marketing / social media-focused events too, went to a great and really fun workshop on creative briefing, met really interesting people every which way I turned and really got into the groove at SXSW. I do think it’s an event that would be better to attend with someone, but I made friends whilst I was there, and it was nice to be able to debrief or share stories about different experiences. At SXSW, there is no chance of seeing it all, so you just have to embrace it and get the best out of the parts you do get to visit.


My main motive for attending this event was to attend many of the sessions on AI and really immerse myself in that space, which is new for me. I heard from educators, professionals and entrepreneurs in this space, which really broadened my understanding and gave me some key insights for our new AI project (details on this will follow).

At the end of my week in Austin, I was exhausted and ready to return to the UK. I had strategically kept the following week free, so that I could get some rest but also follow up on the trip while it was all still fresh in my head, before getting distracted by the day to day at Trio.

I would definitely recommend SXSW to people. It’s a pretty mega experience, but I feel like I got the most out of it because I had a purpose in mind, and it ticked the boxes for me. I gained some valuable new insights into areas of the business that I’m looking to expand and made some great connections in the process.

Back on British soil, the plan is to put what I’ve learned into action, and then we will take the time to plan out a full USA expansion strategy when we’re ready. We’ll keep you all updated of course as we go!

Thanks for reading. I know it’s a long one, but hopefully, this gives you more information about the trip if you are interested in any aspects of it. I’m also happy to share my thoughts by having a chat if there are any aspects of this blog you’d like to discuss with me. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.