In fiscal year 2011, SBA awarded 52 grants totaling $30 million
By Ray Hays, International Consultant and Member of the Arizona District Export Council.
Re-blogging of this post is permitted and encouraged.
As many U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) compete for revenue from new markets, they often overlook the global picture: Promote your products and services internationally. While it sounds daunting, it’s often a simple matter of funding and international expertise to sell your products and services into global markets.
What if your company had the opportunity to leverage international business experts from the public and private sector to market your product internationally? At no cost?
Welcome to the best kept public secret in international business.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers grants through the State Trade and Export Promotion Grant (STEP) program. Over the last year, $30 million in export promotion grants were awarded through the SBA, and the same amounts are expected for 2013 and 2014
The rules and amounts of the grants will vary by state, but in many cases, U.S. exporters of products and services are eligible for thousands of dollars in export promotion grants.
Depending on the state, these grants may be applied toward the travel and fees of several export promotion opportunities:
- Trade Missions – These are usually managed through the individual state trade agencies or through federal agencies, such as the U.S. Commercial Service. These trade missions typically gather attendees from a sector to participate in a multi-country promotional visit, supported by the the Trade Representatives at U.S. Embassies in those countries.
- Trade Shows and Fairs – Similar to the trade missions, your state and federal agencies may attend a industry-specific Trade Show, with U.S. small businesses representatives.
- Individual Company Promotion Events – Through the U.S. Commercial Service and other organizations, U.S. businesses have the opportunity to have a custom program that helps the American company to identify buyers, distributors, licensees or other partners in key international markets. These programs (such as the USCS Gold Key Program) typically leverage the resources of the U.S. embassies and consulates in the international markets.
- Privately Contracted Export Marketing and Promotion — A range of U.S. companies work closely with the USCS and other agencies to provide contracted export assistance to SMEs. Often these private contractors supplement existing U.S. government programs, providing small businesses with the management guidance and experience to maximize their success in their export marketing efforts.
As a (very rough) example, a Trade Show may require a travel budget of $5,000 and exhibition costs of $5,000. Some U.S. companies can qualify for reimbursement of 75% or more of the travel cost and 100% of the exhibition costs through the STEP Grant program. This would bring the cost of a $10K trade show into the range of $1,250… Other export promotion activities may be covered in-full.
Of course, a U.S. company should not strike out blindly into the international marketplace. Your company will need to identify target markets, evaluate risk/returns based on the country regulations and demographics, build a model for international expansion and finally, execute on this plan.
If you do not have the international expertise in-house, you can work with a U.S. contractor — a consultant or management firm — to plan and deploy the export promotion strategy.
Whether your company builds an international team in-house or contracts international management specialists, this would be a good time to take action. The second year of SBA STEP Grants are already awarded, and the third (and final) year of STEP Grants are awaiting proposals. Go get your piece of the international pie.
In addition to these grants, export financing programs for SMEs are available through SBA and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
For resources, please contact your regional District Export Council (Google it for your state), or the nearest U.S. Commercial Service Export Assistance Center.
Having personally participated in over 40 international events and trade missions through the USCS, I highly recommend using their services. I am currently a Member of the District Export Council in my home state of Arizona, which works closely with the USCS on export promotion efforts.
Regardless of your location, please feel free to contact me if you would like more information on these programs, and I would be happy to point you to the appropriate export assistance resource in your local market.
This article is based on current knowledge to-date of STEP Grants based on various government websites. The program details may vary by state and rules are often updated. For the latest information please click on this link for the SBA website page on the STEP Grants.
Please re-blog or re-post this article to your social media groups and professional contacts interested in international business.
Copyright Ray Hays, Envoy Investments LLC. All rights reserved. Re-blogging of this post is permitted. Referrals to http://www.rayhays.com are appreciated.
Ray Hays owns Envoy Consulting, which provides international business development guidance for U.S. product and service exporters. Ray is a Member of the Arizona District Export Council. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, cell: 714-797-3386, Skype: Ray_Hays.