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Small Business Exporting – Insights from National Small Business Week

Small Business Exporting – Insights from National Small Business Week

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: August 14, 2013 Updated: August 26, 2016

“When you – as a small business – export, you strengthen our economy back here at home and help create real jobs for real people.” –Cory Simkek, Director, USEAC (Dept. of Commerce) St. Louis, MO

This year, small businesses across the country were celebrated during the 50th National Small Business Week, an annual event acknowledging the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs. Of the many topics discussed during the sessions, expert panels and Google + Hangouts, insights about exporting abounded during the daily “Growing and Going Global” panels.

So, how can you take your business to the next level by selling overseas? What do you need to be successful in exporting? What resources are available to help your small business export endeavors? These experts came together to answer these questions and more. Here are highlights from their discussions.

What kind of help can I find – especially if I’m in the early stages of exploring exporting options for my small business?

The value of mentoring and networking can’t be overstated. Many of the panelists encouraged aspiring exporters to reach out to their local resources for expert help from SCORE and Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). The skilled volunteers at these organizations provide counseling and guidance – at no cost to you – to help you get started or guide you in the right direction toward export success. You can use SBA’s Local Assistance Tool to find your nearest office.

Another resource mentioned during the session in Seattle came from Pru Balatero, Washington Regional Manager of SBA International Finance Programs. He’s a fan of the “Take Your Business Global” training course, available in the online Learning Center. It can help you generate questions that you may not have previously thought of before you meet with a potential mentor or program representative, he explained.

Danielle Ellingston of the Washington Department of Commerce STEP Grant Program touted the benefits of visiting and using its “Country Commercial Guides” to help you conduct research. offers information about trade shows, training, finances and more.

Are there financial resources or programs available to help my exporting efforts?

Yes! SBA has a number of programs to help, and again Balatero gave us the scoop. The International Trade Loan Program (ITL) provides small businesses with financing options for a combination of fixed asset, working capital and related debt refinancing. Do you need additional equipment, machinery or improved facilities to meet an order request? The ITL can help.

Are you looking for working capital to support labor or to buy raw materials to produce more of your product? The Export Working Capital (EWCP) loan can be tailored specifically to a purchase order, contract or multiple contracts on a revolving line of credit basis. It also has a quick processing time.

John Brislin, Director of Seattle’s Regional Office of Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, also shed some light on products available to help finance and in insure your exports. The Ex-Im Bank website has a section devoted to small business owners, so check out the programs and offerings they have, including Global Credit Express (a working capital line of credit) and various trade credit insurance options.

These SBA programs can help you access the capital you need to export, and the bank will also help you work through other questions you may have about your finances and exporting. On the St. Louis panel, we heard a few examples. For instance, what are your precise capital and cash flow needs? To what extent is there foreign exchange risk? What happens if things don’t go as planned? You can discuss these kinds of issues with your bank to mitigate the credit and foreign exchange risks you’ll face as a seller.

How can I best prepare for when I use one of these resources?

“What’s critical to understand is that when you go to one of these resources – whether it be a mentor or organizations that have the resources you need to complete that transaction – is that you be prepared to effectively talk with them.” – Terry Chambers, SBDC, International Trade, Export Readiness Center

“Do your homework,” says Ellingston. Make sure you really know your product or service that you’re planning to export. Have an idea of the market you want to go into and make sure to have done research. Get a good sense of where you want to go so your mentors and advisors can help you figure out how to get there.

A business plan was another agreed upon essential during the Seattle panel. Brislin also highlighted the importance of providing recent financial information or analysis with your plan. Wondering where to get started with yours? Check out SBA’s “Build Your Business Plan” tool, which guides you through the process of creating a basic, downloadable business plan. You can develop your plan in smaller chunks of time, save your progress and return at your leisure.

How do I figure out where I should I export my product or service?

Ellingston indicated that people generally explore exporting starting with countries they’re familiar with, where they have spent time growing up or have family. This is a good place to start, she says, but you should also be aware that there might be other markets that are a better fit for your product. Ask yourself: Where have I been successful already? Where does that market exist elsewhere in terms of GDP per capita, culture of the people, what kinds of products those people are looking for, etc.? Again, check out’s “Country Commercial Guides” to help you examine your market.

Another way you can gain insight about where there may be success – or where you should maybe avoid exporting – is by checking out industry association meetings, according to Brislin. And Tony Clayton of Clayton Agri-Marketing, Inc. suggested also attending trade shows. See who’s there, what kind of products they’re exporting and find out what problems they’re facing. With everyone in one place for a few days, he said, it’s a great time to learn secrets and gain insight about market interests.  


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About the Author:

Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at!