COVID-19 relief options and additional resources

STEP Up Your Export Game with SBA

Advisory Date: 
Monday, August 31, 2015
Advisory Number: 

By Cassius F. Butts, Regional Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration

About 96% of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States and represent 67% of the world’s purchasing power. U.S. companies that export are benefitting from increased sales and profit potential. Exporting also helps businesses weather downturns in the domestic economy by being prepared to respond to foreign competition and global market trends.

Exports have been a key driver in our economic comeback. Exports support 11.3 million American jobs, and contributed one-third of our annual growth between 2009 and 2013. In other words, with exports come opportunity and we want small businesses to partner with the SBA to earn their fair share of the global marketplace.

SBA’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program is one way small businesses can reach global markets. The purpose of the STEP program is for states to assist small businesses with export-related activities or other export initiatives that are in line with the objectives of the program. These objectives include participation in foreign trade missions, foreign market sales trips, subscription services provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, as well as design of international marketing campaigns, export trade show exhibits, training workshops and more.

The SBA manages STEP nationally; however, activities are managed and provided at the local level by state government organizations.

Recently, SBA announced the FY 2015 STEP Awards, providing $17.4 million to promote small business exporting. Of the awards, $2.2 million was awarded right here in the Southeastern Region, including $400,000 in Kentucky. STEP will unlock capital for small businesses to help them enter and compete in the global marketplace.

In 2014, U.S. businesses exported $2.35 trillion of goods and services, hitting a record high for the fifth straight year. In that same year, U.S. imports increased 2.7% to a record $1.64 trillion. Exporting provides tremendous opportunities for America’s small businesses that are looking to expand and grow. Recipients in the first two rounds of STEP awards, in FY 2011 and FY 2012,  reported a strong return on investment of over 19:1.

Dr. Mendi Yazdanpanah, President and CEO of NaugaNeedles, LLC, took a leap to reach markets in the UK, China, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Taiwan and Singapore, and they expect to be in other countries soon. Participation in SBA’s STEP program allowed NaugaNeedles, LLC to establish international commercial ties for their small business. “The SBA STEP grant has been instrumental in helping us with market research, marketing our products at trade shows that we otherwise could not have afforded to attend, and with opening the door for our company,” said Dr. Yazdanpanah.

For additional information on the STEP program and the FY 2015 awardees, visit To learn more about how you can export with the SBA, visit