Local company’s rapid growth leads to new opportunities in international markets

BioDerm, Inc. of Pinellas County

When BioDerm first opened its doors in 1991, it was strictly a research and development facility. Over the years, founder, Dr. Dennis Kay and his team developed a proprietary hydrocolloid that the company used as a catalyst when developing an external catheter for men.

Chief Strategy Officer Wendy LaTorre said when she joined the team in 2012, there was little to no impression in regards to the marketing and sales of the product.

“When I came on board, the company wasn’t selling direct to the consumer at all,” LaTorre said.

Her background in direct to consumer sales made a quick and powerful impact. LaTorre said the company sold 3,500 units in February 2012 and last month it sold 57,000.

“Being a woman, when I first went into this, I never understood the issues of conventional men’s catheters,” she said. “Once I understood it, and how innovative the product was, I was totally on board because it truly improves the quality of life.”

She said the company’s big growth streak is mainly due to how unique the product is and how much it is needed throughout the world.

After watching the business develop and grow across the nation, for LaTorre expanding into the international markets was the next logical step for the company.

The company dipped their feet in the international waters by gradually entering the British and Netherlands markets.

After noticing the company’s rapid growth and possibility for success, Enterprise Florida reached out to BioDerm and offered their services and the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida’s expertise in international trade.

Enterprise Florida seeks out manufacturers that are new-to-export and that meet the criteria, and the Florida SBDC at USF provides the research in all of the international markets.

“Depending on their product and their industry, we try to identify the best potential markets for their specific product,” Selma Canas, a certified international trade specialist at the Florida SBDC, explained. “Each report is customized and unique to each client. It provides all of the data that they need in order to make a proper decision. The clients choose what markets they would like to get into based on the data.”

Companies interested in Export Marketing Plans must have:

• 5+ employees
• 3+ years in business
• Minimum $500,000 in revenue

The services provided by Enterprise Florida and the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida, LaTorre said, has been an unexpected valuable asset in their international trade efforts, and she said she has enjoyed working with the two organizations immensely.

“When we got our first export plan, we were absolutely thrilled with it,” she said. “The data in it was incredible. The report was so detailed, and had so much information and research. It took our product and lined it up with all of the other countries. We were very impressed with it.”

Clients are urged to choose five countries they would like to pursue based on the research and data they receive. In addition to expanding their efforts in Britain and the Netherlands, BioDerm chose to pursue Canada, Germany and Japan.

LaTorre has been proactive and has already been taking steps to move forward in all five markets.

Her most notable endeavor was a recent trip to MEDICA in Germany. The MEDICA Website claims it is the, “world’s largest annual medical marketplace.”

“MEDICA was a great experience,” LaTorre said. “We received a lot of leads from that show, 65 leads, from over 31 countries, to be exact.”

Within two days of getting back home, LaTorre sat down with her team and created a grading system for the leads using data provided in the Export Marketing Plan. They determined that 25 of the 65 leads, were ranked as A or A+ leads and immediately reached out to them.

“Immediate follow up is important,” she said. “I have done shows my entire career, and I have seen many companies get these leads and not do anything with them. I am the complete opposite. We have been consistent with our follow-ups and that is key. It is looking very promising.”

Canas said that this is just the beginning. The FSBDC at USF will continue to provide market research support. Now that the company has chosen their top five markets, the support will be more focused.

“The Export Marketing Plan was just the first phase of the plan. It was a general overview and identification of the key markets,” Canas said. “Now that Wendy and her team have identified the markets they are interested in, what we can do is continue our support with BioDerm and provide them with country specific information and research that will help them in their marketing strategy for the specific countries.”

“I think that Florida Enterprise and the FSBDC are two untapped resources for just about any small business,” LaTorre said. “With the support of the SBDC and Florida Enterprise, a lot of the fear of the unknown goes away. That’s one of the really great aspects of the program. Once you have the support of the SBDC and Florida Enterprise, you always have somebody to go to that can help you and back you up.”