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Navigating the Alphabet Soup of Export Assistance

Navigating the Alphabet Soup of Export Assistance

By Peter J. Cazamias, SBA Official
Published: May 8, 2018

SBA conducted a Listening Session with eight successful small business exporters from around the country as part of the 2018 National Small Business Exporter Summit in Baltimore, MD on March 21.   The companies related a variety of experiences, challenges, and opportunities, but there was one thing that they all seemed to agree on:  The “alphabet soup” of Federal and state export assistance is confusing and bewildering to companies looking to grow their global sales.

Most of the companies present had used some kind of Federal or state assistance in their global sales growth, but none felt confident that they had taken full advantage of available support.

So where is a small business with global sales aspirations to turn for help navigating the “alphabet soup” of export assistance?  I’d suggest two first stops. 

If you are someone who prefers the convenience of technology, then head to www.export.gov.   Export.gov helps U.S. companies plan, develop and execute international sales strategies necessary to succeed in today's global marketplace.  Here you will find trusted market intelligence, practical advice and business tools to help you understand how to export, connect with foreign buyers, and expand into new markets. 

Export.gov now offers an email subscription page based on a company’s level of sophistication as new-to-export, expanding markets, or experienced exporter:  https://www.export.gov/article?id=Email.  Sign up to take advantage of the wealth of information that Export.gov has to offer.

For those that prefer a face-to-face approach to consultation, make your local SBDC your first stop.  Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide a vast array of technical assistance to small and medium-sized businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, including international business planning. 

There are multiple international trade specialists within the local SBDC network that can help make sense of the variety of acronyms that provide assistance to companies looking to start or grow their international sales, and get you on a path to global business success.  To find your nearest SBDC, please visit:  https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/sbdc

Taking advantage of Federal resources for international sales assistance can pay great dividends.  Take it from one small business executive who knows.  CellAntenna is a woman-owned small business launched in 2002 out of Coral Springs, Florida.  Since 2002 CellAntenna has been a pioneer of wireless systems worldwide, offering cell phone signal boosters, wireless repeaters, and custom-engineered antenna systems. 

According to CellAntenna President, Howard Melamed, much of their global success is attributable to Federal assistance available to small business exporters. “Leveraging the Commerce Department for market entry assistance and SBA and EXIM for trade financing and export insurance allow us to compete effectively to acquire foreign contracts.  As we get better at understanding what is available in terms of government services, we feel more confident in our ability to best utilize the support.  Our exports in the first quarter of 2018 equaled our total exports during the previous year.  We hope to continue building on this success.”   

Turn to www.sba.gov; www.export.gov and/or your friendly neighborhood SBDC to help you appreciate and identify the programs and services that your Federal and state government have to offer.

About the Author:

Peter J. Cazamias
Peter J. Cazamias

SBA Official

Peter J. Cazamias serves as the Associate Administrator for SBA's Office of International Trade.