A STEP to Finding Customers Overseas: Grants for Small Businesses

Upon the President’s signing of the CARES Act, SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza noted, “Our small businesses are the economic engines of their communities, and the SBA is ready to provide them with the support they need to remain open and keep their workers employed…We are providing small businesses with the resources they need to get them through this unprecedented time.” Since then, much attention has gone to SBA’s loan programs, but small businesses should not overlook SBA’s grants as financial support solutions. 

STEP, or the State Trade Expansion Program, is a U.S. Small Business Administration grant program that has assisted thousands of small businesses with getting grants and finding customers in the international marketplace since 2011. Through awards to states and U.S. territories, STEP is helping small businesses learn how to export, obtain services to support foreign market entry, develop websites to attract foreign buyers, design international marketing products or campaigns, and participate in foreign trade missions. Last year, STEP businesses recorded over $974 million in export sales.

Companies that look for opportunity in the face of adversity will have a competitive edge.  Not surprisingly, U.S. companies that sell in international markets receive greater business success overall. Small businesses with global customers are:

  • better prepared to respond to foreign competition and global market trends
  • able to weather downturns in the domestic economy
  • more competitive and less likely to go out of business
  • able to extend the sales potential of existing products and maintain productive capacity by stabilizing seasonal markets

Selling to international markets is an increasingly attractive way to grow your company’s customers, profits, and successes.   Advancement in e-Commerce and logistics have lowered the costs of doing business overseas.  Free trade agreements have opened markets in Australia, Chile, Singapore, South Korea, Morocco, Bahrain, Jordan, Israel, Canada, Mexico, and Central America, creating more opportunities for U.S. businesses.

My Med Choices, Inc. is a great example.   A woman-owned new-to-export business provides travel for medical treatment services and used STEP funds to participate in a business trip led by the State of Delaware to South Korea, Thailand, and Australia.  As a result, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Asian Medical Center, one the leading hospitals in the world, and shortly thereafter,  secured a contract with Australia’s largest national hospital system, Ramsey Healthcare. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic brought travel for treatment to a standstill, My Med Choices pivoted, offering their telehealth platform to Ramsey Healthcare and other hospital systems they met during the trip. My Med Choices was able to increase export sales by $575,000 as a result of the Delaware STEP program.  The company anticipates growing to $40 million over the next three years as a result of STEP opportunities. Being flexible and adaptable during our volatile time has proven successful for this STEP client.  And there are thousands of similar business examples across the United States.

SBA is committed to supporting U.S. businesses during this challenging time. To find out more about how STEP can assist you in reaching new markets and boosting your business, visit  STEP  or  reach out to our STEP office, or contact your local state or territory trade development agency. We hope to see your business succeeding in the international marketplace soon.

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