Did you know that 95% of consumers are outside the U.S.? Small businesses can expand their markets to other countries and capture new customers. Exporting can also be a risk management strategy because foreign markets may not suffer economic downturns at the same time are your home economy. Small businesses already comprise 97.4% of all U.S. exporters and you can be part of this impressive statistic. The concept of exporting may seem challenging, but it’s easier than you think.
Basics of what you need to do to start exporting
If you want to export, you’ll need to take certain actions to find global customers and be able to service them. Here are several ideas to get your started:
- Website. Be sure your website is accessible to customers in other languages. You don’t have to post in multiple languages; just have your website designed to inform foreigners about your products and how to buy them. Fatbit has tips for a global-friendly website.
- Financing. You may require additional capital to expand abroad. The SBA has export finance programs. These include Export Express Loans up to $500,000 that can be obtained within 36 hours, Export Working Capital Loans up to $5 million, and International Trade Loans for fixed assets, working capital, and debt financing up to a maximum of $5 million. The Export-Import Bank of the Unites States offers (EXIM) a working capital loan guarantee to help with financing. EXIM also offers export credit insurance to protect you from nonpayment by foreign customers.
- Marketing. Determine how you plan to reach customers abroad. This may be through your website or social media, which knows no boundaries. Some owners may have family or friends in other countries who can offer help in getting started there. Decide whether to offer “geopricing”, which is the practice of adjusting an item’s sale price based on the location of the buyer.
- Shipping assistance. Selling abroad may require documentation with shipping. Depending on what and where you sell, the list may be extensive, including commercial and proforma invoices, bills of lading, packing list, shipper’s letter of instruction, automated export system (AES) filing, certificate of origin, and more. You can get an overview of what may be needed with a blog and video from ATS, a company offering cross-border freight shipping. For most small businesses, international shipping can be done through such familiar companies as FedEx, UPS, and Shopify.
Mentoring to help
If you want help to get started or to overcome challenges you face, you can get FREE help through:
- U.S. Export Assistance Centers. Find a center near you via your zip code.
- Small Business Development Centers.
- State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). This program gives grants to states to assist small businesses with export development. It’s not available in every state, but you can check availability to you here.
You can start your exporting activities on a small scale. For example, if your business is in the U.S., you can begin by exporting to Canada and Mexico. Once you have experience in exporting, you can expand activities overseas. For more help, call the SBA’s Office of International Trade Hotline at 855-722-4877 or email to [email protected].