Did you know that the U.S. Small Business Administration and other agencies provide free resources to help small businesses sell to customers overseas? As more businesses use online storefronts and e-commerce platforms, they become well-positioned to enter the international marketplace. SBA helps these businesses succeed by providing access to grants, loans, and free advice.
The future is moving online faster than ever, with nearly 60 percent of the entire world population on the Internet, and most users outside the United States. Our neighbors – Mexico and Canada – are especially attractive international trade markets. Under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, this trade partnership is committed to prohibiting customs charges on digital trade products and no longer requiring companies that export services to have a physical presence in their countries.
With the end of year holidays and the shopping surge associated with it, small businesses can sign up and utilize the following resources to grow and protect themselves online:
- Access Trends, Business Counseling and Mentoring: With nearly 1,000 Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across the United States and thousands of volunteer SCORE mentors, U.S. small businesses can connect with no-cost local counseling and mentoring to build successful e-commerce and social media strategies. Get advice on how to provide customers with the total cost, offer shipping and payment choices, and translate product information when marketing online.
- Be Visible and Accessible: Take proactive steps to be seen by more potential customers in other markets. The E-Commerce Lab at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) provides in-depth analyses and reports of a business website’s international strengths and weaknesses for a small fee upon request. It also hosts a directory of companies that offer services to internationalize websites.
- Find International Partners: ITA’s virtual International Partner Search and Gold Key Services can help U.S. small businesses connect with interested potential customers for larger purchases. SBA Export Finance Managers are co-located in 21 U.S. Export Assistance Centers and can make referrals.
- Stay Compliant: ITA helps ensure your digital strategy follows international trade laws and privacy protections through its Local Trade Experts and Digital Attachés. Small businesses can also learn more about a country’s laws, regulations, labeling, and restrictions from ITA’s Country Commercial Guides.
- Seek E-Recordation and Intellectual Property Protection: Small businesses with U.S. trademarks and copyrights can register with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for a small fee to enforce their rights at the U.S. border. Small businesses with information about infringing imports can record their rights through the CBP’s e-Recordation process, then follow up with the e-Allegations process and even utilize CBP training to help target and stop fakes. SBA’s International Trade Loans can be structured with help from our Export Finance Managers to build in foreign intellectual property rights costs into SBA guaranteed loans. SBA STEP assistance may cover U.S. Patent and Trademark Office services for trademark, copyright, and even patent applications through international agreements. Learn more at www.sba.gov/tradetools or speak to an SBDC or SCORE mentor about registering for brand protection available on online marketplaces.
- Partner with Food and Agricultural Online Promotion: U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) State and Regional Trade Groups provide specialized assistance for marketing food and agriculture products online internationally. U.S. small businesses in this industry can benefit from both SBA and USDA services in partnership.
For programs with fees involved, many state trade offices compete for SBA STEP awards and may provide grants to reimburse small businesses using these programs, as well as internationalizing websites to finding international partners and/or joining virtual and in-person trade missions and events.
SBA and our partners are committed to helping U.S. small businesses take advantage of the opportunities to go global and find international customers. To learn more about SBA and other Federal e-commerce resources or to obtain a referral to SBA business or trade finance counseling, contact SBA’s Office of International Trade at firstname.lastname@example.org.