Dixie Belle Paint of Pasco County
Some of us just have a natural calling. No one understands this more than Suzanne Fulford of Dixie Belle Paint. When she saw a need in the market place for affordable home décor and chalk paint, she began mixing her own recipes.
“I got started painting furniture myself,” she said. “They had a lot of different types of paint and paint you would have to prime and do all that. This kind of paint became available and it was kind of pricy so I tried a whole bunch of different recipes and made my own that I was happy with, and where I felt comfortable selling my furniture. Then from there, I had people requesting my paint and I decided to see if it was a viable business.”
“I saw a need for more size choices, more color choices, and there was a large gap in the market that I knew needed to be filled,” she added.
Although Fulford’s business was popular among the locals, she saw an opportunity to expand into international markets but she was having a hard time understanding the various laws and regulations of international trade. That’s when she set out to meet Selma Canas at the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida for advice.
“I learned that it’s really, really important and saves a lot of headache and trouble in the long run to have people there to help you, beside you, and help set things up. It makes it so much easier,” Fulford said. With the help of the Florida SBDC at USF, Dixie Belle Paint is now talking to international markets in the Bahamas.
“I know that they have connections that I need to make my company grow and my life easier and really it’s about saving time that way, so I definitely feel like the SBDC has done that for me,” Fulford said. “Moving forward I will definitely reach out the SBDC for any kind of help internationally. I see a big future ahead of us going international.”
As Dixie Belle Paint continues to expand locally and internationally, they will continue to look at more international market opportunities to pursue in the future. Fulford is also looking forward to continuing to work with the Canas and the Florida SBDC at USF throughout the company’s international journey.
“What I learned from the SBDC is especially when it comes to international trade and commerce there are so many different rules, and laws, and guidelines,” she said. “Different countries need different things. Some are easier to work with than others and if I didn’t do it right, it’s very possible that I could get kicked out of a country and never be able to come back. I wouldn’t want to put in all of that hard work then have that happen.”
Fulford added some simple advice for other small businesses looking for resources. “If you’re looking for advice, help, or any kind of logistical information they are a great resource. I really appreciate all that the SBDC has done for us. There’s no way I would attempt to do it on my own,” she said.