American Fabric Filter Company of Pasco County
After working more closely with many other companies to create essential air and water filters during the pandemic, Tim Robinson, University of South Florida (USF) alumni and co-owner of American Fabric Filter Company, saw an opportunity to focus on the fabric and filter division of his company to expand business beyond the United States.
“We chose to launch this type of a business because we had a sister company that dealt in similar industries, and it required us to make fabric and filtration products for the market,” Robinson said. “So, we were working with other companies, and it got to a point where we really wanted to own our own destiny a little bit more and so we decided to start our own fabric and filter division and that turned into its own company.”
Although business was already going well, Robinson and his partner wanted to find a way to better supply their customers and increase market share. That is when they reached out to the Florida Small Business Development Center at University of South Florida, where they were paired with business consultant and international trade specialist, Selma Canas, for help with their export marketing plan.
“They really helped show us what resources are available through the state that can help us grow our business and the SBDC helped us with our export marketing plan which helped give us a direction of how we wanted to go and build our new export website and what countries we wanted to target,” Robinson said.
Robinson later mentions how using the resources and knowledge provided by his Florida SBDC at USF consultant helped the business grow. “Our business has grown quite a bit since we started working with the Florida SBDC at USF,” he said. “Once we started working with them, we had a year where we experienced about 20% growth.”
That growth is also accompanied with the opportunity that they received after Canas introduced them to STEP funds. “Working with Selma at the Florida SBDC at USF, she told us about the STEP funds. We really had no idea that these were available to us. Starting with the export marketing plan and then working up on the website and having some of that paid for, takes a lot of the burden off,” Robinson explained.
As a result of the guidance and STEP funds, American Fabric Filter was able to launch a new website. Robinson attributes much of the company’s exporting success to the fact that they were able to use the resources that were available to them.
“Our biggest exporting success so far has really been the launch of our website and you know, the Florida SBDC at USF helped shape our strategy, which before, we were just kind of out there hoping to be found and they really helped us go out there and show us what was really available to us and where we should go and look for customers,” Robinson said.
When asked how the company would use the Florida SBDC at USF moving forward, Robinson expressed that, “there’s pitfalls and tricks and stuff that you have to learn when you export. Going into different countries, we will rely on [Florida SBDC at USF] as a resource because we don’t have any specialist here and it costs money to work with somebody special so knowing that we’ve got a team that’s on our side really helps and gives us a comfort level that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Robinson also advises other small business owners to take advantage of resources that benefit their company’s growth. “I would tell other small businesses owners that if they’re not using the Florida SBDC at USF, that they’re really missing out on a very good resource that can really help them grow their business,” he said.