Do you have accounting or bookkeeping clients that already have or might be poised to conduct international business? Here are information and tools, ranging from information on grants to trade tools for international sales.
This link will take you to a full list of topics discussed, including timestamps for the starting time of each session. At the bottom of this article, you will find a list of topics discussed each day.
One session I attended included information on e-commerce and export, with the purpose of showing how other women are achieving success in international trade. One panelist, Bridgit Antwi, from PayPal's Nor America Small Business Segment pointed out that businesses with cross-border activity actually have higher growth rates than those that don't do so.
Your clients may be unsure of how to expand internationally, but there are resources and information available to help you help them.
Basic information about entering the global marketplace
Gabriel Esparza, who led the panel discussion on this topic, leads the SBA's Office of International Trade (OIT). The mission of OIT is to "enhance the ability of small businesses to compete in the global marketplace." And, when you start looking into information about export business opportunities, you will find a number of government entities who are able and eager to not just help but also encourage small business owners to develop export businesses or to expand existing businesses to begin exporting.
The OIT should be the first point of contact as your clients begin to explore exporting.
Developing a small business export plan
Step 1. Engage support.
A good first step for a client interesting in learning about export is to connect with one of the 21 U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs). USEACs are co-located with the Department of Commerce and the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and they provide information and services ranging from basic information about export to help in securing capital for export needs.
You can find the closest centers by searching by zip code on this map.
Here are just some of the types of information and support you will receive:
- Research new international markets
- Promote your product or service at trade events around the world
- Locate qualified international buyers and distributors
- Receive help through every step of the export process
There are also other offices and agencies able to assist you and your clients.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are hosted by leading universities and state economic agencies and provide individualized business advice and technical assistance
- SCORE provides 10,000 volunteer mentors with experience in topics ranging from startup concerns to financing for small businesses.
- SBA's Women's Business Centers
- SBA Veterans Business Outreach Centers
Step 2. Start your small business export plan.
Small business owners wanting to expand internationally do not need to start at square zero when there are so many resources to help. The next step includes analyzing data and information about the locations and products you will be targeting and developing your export plan.
The International Trade Administration (ITA) provides numerous resources, including a sample outline of an export plan. This outline will assure you that you aren't missing any critical information as you conduct your business analysis and plan. The parts of the outline are an export policy commitment statement, situation or background analysis, marketing component, tactics and action steps, export budget, implementation schedule, and addenda for background data.
Step 3. Find international customers and partners.
The contacts you met in step one will be able to help you find international customers and partners. For example, for a fee, the ITA will provide "customized market research, an initial assessment of the market potential of a product or service in a target market, matchmaking services including virtual introductions, in-country promotion services, and due diligence assistance to determine the suitability of foreign parties and companies." In addition, the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) provides financial assistance to many states that are used solely for grants to help small businesses with export expansion.
Step 4. Secure capital if needed.
Small business loans in general can be difficult to secure. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources to help secure loans for small businesses to finance exports.
First, contact an SBA Export Finance Manager in your area. They will be able to provide you with lists of participating export lenders and export express lenders as well as export working capital loans which allow for small business owners to apply for loans in advance of finalizing an export sale or contract. Most importantly, though, Export Finance Managers are able to counsel small business owners through the entire process.
Step 5. Protect your intellectual property internationally.
Although you may have already protected your products and brands locally, you also need to do so internationally. This video will give you starting information.
Step 6. Use e-commerce tools to increase brand awareness and international sales.
Resources already mentioned above can help you here. Use SCORE's "Request a Mentor Match" tool to find a mentor who can help you with marketing and sales in international trade. Also, the ITA has a wide variety of resources to help improve your online presence and create a full digital strategy.
Step 7. Determine your international logistics processes.
From mailing products in small amounts to shipping bulk, there are quite a few things you need to consider. You will need to know how to package your product for export, which shipping option(s) are best suited for you, what documentation is needed, and tariff and customs information. The ITA is the perfect starting point to get started with export logistics.