by Shaunda Wickham | May 31, 2019
Dipping a toe into the international market often can be an overwhelming and daunting experience for a small business owner.
Depending on the country, he or she can be faced with barriers unlike anything experienced domestically. The challenge is that smaller companies don’t have enough resources to do everything needed to make the right impact.
These obstacles can be so challenging, that they often lose confidence and just give up. Armed with the right tools and, more importantly, the right people in their corner, business owners can take the leap into international waters and make a complete splash.
Many may question if it is even worth the time and investment to jump in. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, roughly three quarters of world purchasing power and over 95% of world consumers are outside America’s borders.
And Tampa is an ideal place for those who want to pursue international trade. With 14 deep water seaports and 19 commercial service airports, Florida sometimes can feel like an epicenter of trade.
If the owner is only doing business domestically, they’re missing out on a huge chunk of potential money. And that’s what it’s all about for small businesses. We want to sell as much as possible.
Luckily for these small business owners, there are resources such as Enterprise Florida and the Florida SBDC at USF who will help them develop an Export Marketing Plan (EMP). As Florida SBDC international trade specialist, Selma Canas, explains, “This plan is the roadmap to success.”
The EMP is very thorough and helps the business owner tackle every aspect of international trade, including a company, product, and financial analysis, competition analysis, market research and market entry strategies. It helps determine the right markets and helps pick out activities that gives the most potential return for the business.
Local business Stream2Sea, based in Wauchula, is projecting a growth of 200 to 300 percent this year because of its international growth, thanks to the help of the Export Marketing Plan delivered by Canas and colleague Michael Noel.
Owner Autumn Blum teamed up with Canas and Enterprise Florida in 2018 and is excited to see the rapid results.
“We are getting inquiries from all over the world,” she said. “Right now, I’m working on a project with Enterprise Florida to help get our products registered in the EU. There is a mountain of paperwork and it’s very confusing and complicated. They are helping guide us through the process.”
Stream2Sea Vice President Mike Malterre explained that they are entering markets they never dreamed they could possibly reach before.
“The Export Marketing Plan that was provided for us really opened our eyes to different foreign markets we haven’t thought about,” Malterre said. “For one, Japan was not on our radar at all. We have found that there is amazing potential for us there and we are really looking forward to how Enterprise Florida and the SBDC can assist us with that sort of exporting to foreign markets.”
Without the right tools and team by their side, it is easy for a business owner to fail in the complexity of international trade. As Florida SBDC at USF business consultant Mitch Lairmore explains, small businesses tend to be reactive instead of proactive. They may get leads and inquiries from all over the world and just react to the situation in a case by case manner. But as Lairmore explains, this is a recipe for failure.
“That’s not a good way to do it because it will dilute the company’s international presence,” he said. “If you don’t have a strong presence, it makes it easy for international competitors to steal tech, product ideas and customers. You have to be proactive to limit their ability to do so.”
The EMP focuses on two countries that will be successfully responsive to the product or service. It creates a thorough sales forecast to help the business owner analyze the risk of investment.
This forecast also helps the business owner apply for special loans and grants, such as the Gold Key Matchmaking grant.
Local business owner Tom Nihra, of JTD Entprises in Lutz, was able to export through the Mexican market as well as secure accounts in South Korea, the company’s two largest target markets, with the help of the Gold Key Matchmaking grant.
“We had the opportunity through Enterprise Florida and through our Gold Key grant to attend the Mexican trade mission in Mexico City,” Nihra said. “We were able to set up three appointments with three different distributors there in Mexico, one being the largest sporting goods chain in Mexico and the other two being with the two largest golf distributors.”
“Without SBDC and the export marketing team, I don’t know if we would have ever been able to get those appointments on our own. Through U.S. Commercial Services there that we worked with in Mexico City, we were able to break down a lot of barriers; phone calls that would have taken me a year of trying to make an appointment were resolved in days basically,” he added.
If a business owner is considering applying for the EMP, it is important to note that there are qualifications to be eligible for the service.
Does your business qualify for an Export Marketing Plan?
The Export Marketing Plan service is available to businesses that meet the following qualifications:
- Florida manufacturers and professional services providers only
- Products must be produced in the state of Florida or services must be provided from a Florida location
- Company’s products must be at least 51% U.S. content
- New-to-export or infrequent exporters preferred
- Minimum of two years in business
- Five or more full-time employees
- $500,000 to $10 million in annual sales
To apply for an Export Marketing Plan or learn more, visit the Florida SBDC at USF online or call 813.905.5800.