There is a nationwide and government wide push to urge entrepreneurs and small business owners to think globally. Exporting makes sense for businesses, including small businesses, that have a product or service that buyers in Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere around the world can purchase or use. Keep in mind that ninety-five percent of potential customers (two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power) are outside the US; so focusing solely on domestic sales means you’re competing for only five percent of your target market. In addition, exporting decreases our trade deficit and improves our local and national economy. And – best of all – going global may enable your business to compete on quality – not price – with your competition as American-made goods and services are often considered superior in the global market.
Exporting can be very doable for small businesses, especially with the right assistance. In fact, 97% of exporters are small businesses! In Missouri, the right place to start is usually the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) network. SCORE is another great source of assistance for businesses new to exporting. As a company’s exporting increases, the US Export Assistance Center (USEAC) here in St. Louis can be tremendously helpful. SBA has three export finance loan programs geared toward current and future exports. They are the International Trade Loan Program (ITL), the Export Working Capital Loan Program (EWCP) and the Export Express Loan Program (EX).
Many companies in Eastern Missouri are already extremely successful exporters. Environmental Dynamics International of Columbia sells customized wastewater aeration treatment solutions here in the United States as well as all over the world. Columbia’s Patric Chocolate artisan chocolates can be found at health food stores in Boone County, at upscale candy stores around the nation, as well as internationally. Clayton Agri-Marketing of Jefferson City ships livestock and farm equipment throughout the world. Innoventor of St. Louis sells innovative medical and manufacturing products to the government, across the nation, and globally. Data Dash of St. Louis and Farmington performs services for an international company with surveys that come from all over the world.
There are challenges with exporting but the right assistance can mitigate many of the issues. Cultural and language barriers; currency exchanges; shipping; payment problems; goods getting caught in customs in the US, en route, or at the destination; US and foreign laws; national security; tariffs; and even time differences can impact exporting efforts.
Several agencies within the federal government support international trade. Websites that focus on international trade include http://business.usa.gov/export/ and http://www.trade.gov/. The Missouri Department of Economic Development, an agency of the State of Missouri may be the source of some of the best exporting assistance in the country. Many service companies also offer assistance to exporters, including shipping companies and banks.
Should your business export? Only you as a small business owner can ultimately answer that question. However, I urge you to consider the possibility. While exporting is not for everyone, for many businesses it can be a catalyst for tremendous growth and expansion. You could be the next huge international business success story!