Archive for the ‘Success Stories’ Category

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Alabama Celebrates Export Success

March 6, 2014
Made In Alabama logo

ITA is proud to have a strategic partnership with the Alabama Department of Commerce to support state exporters.

Robert Stackpole is an International Trade Specialist at the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Yesterday was a big day for the State of Alabama, one that recognized a great year for state businesses and exporters.

At a ceremony at the State Capitol, Gov. Robert Bentley recognized eight Alabama companies that are setting a very high standard for Alabama companies that are competing – and succeeding – in the global marketplace. These businesses are exporting everything from audio/video equipment to machinery that helps install decorative lighting.

These exporters prove every day that Made in Alabama products are some of the most innovative, highest quality products in the world. They’re showing that exporting is possible for businesses of any size.

Engaging in the global marketplace is an excellent way for your company to increase sales, find more customers, and protect against an economic downturn.

If your business is ready to start finding and competing in new markets, the Export Alabama Alliance is here to support! Our team at the Birmingham Export Assistance Center is proud to be a part of that Alliance and to have a strategic partnership with the Alabama Department of Commerce.

We are honored to have helped all eight of the businesses recognized yesterday to increase their exports, and we are ready, willing, and able to support your business going global.

You can learn more about yesterday’s celebration and the companies that were recognized on the Alabama Department of Commerce website.

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How to Avoid a Mid-life Crisis: Start a Business and Take it Global

February 27, 2014

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center. 

Harold Cecil was in his early 40s when he decided to start his own business in Central Oregon. His initial investment: $2,000. That was back in 2008, just in time for the Great Recession.

Six years later, he and a team of five employees at Giant Loop are making world-class equipment carriers for motorcycles. The company does business in 21 countries with sales growing 20 percent per year. It has expanded overseas with the help of numerous government agencies, including Business Oregon, the Small Business Administration, and the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Commercial Service.

Cecil spoke with Doug Barry of ITA’s Global Knowledge Center about how his small company has found success in the global market.

Barry: What’s been the best sales channel for your international business?

Cecil: I’d say trade shows. One of the best is a motorcycle show in Milan, Italy, called EICMA. This was our third year exhibiting, and we have come away with distributor agreements every time. We exhibit in the U.S. Pavilion, and there we meet buyers from all over Europe and many other places. We meet them face-to-face, they can see, feel, and learn about our products; and we can learn about their needs.

Barry: How has government helped you?

Cecil: I couldn’t have done it with without them. This is my first business. I’ve been a journalist, an ad copywriter, and a marketer. I’ve never manufactured anything.

As I got started, our local Small Business Development Center helped me learn how to actually run a business. I still meet with one of the counselors every month to get advice. SBA has been helpful with a working capital loan guarantee. They came through when we couldn’t get a commercial loan from any bank.

The State of Oregon was a big help through the Business Oregon program. They helped us apply for and get financial assistance, which partly covered travel to the trade show in Italy and to one in Sweden.

The U.S. Commercial Service through the Portland Export Assistance Center connected us with Commerce Foreign Service officers and staff supporting the U.S. Pavilion in Milan. The Export Assistance Center has provided great market data and seminars on export mechanics. And the agencies work together to help small businesses like mine.

They are invaluable, top notch.

Barry: What else has made a positive difference for you?

Cecil: The U.S. Free Trade Agreements have been very helpful to us. That lower or zero duty rate makes our products attractive in those markets. Distributors tell us that our product is at the high end of the market because of our product costs and shipping. So any way you can shave costs helps offset our pricing disadvantage.

Barry: What does the future look like for Giant Loop? What are your biggest challenges?

Cecil: Everything is a challenge. That’s what makes it fun.

We’re growing. Seventy percent of the business is domestic; 30 percent is international. Strategically it’s important to have a mix of international and domestic. We’ll never abandon our international markets, no matter how much the domestic market grows.

We added a full-time employee in January, and we plan to hire more seasonal workers. I feel really good about creating jobs. This part of Oregon was hard hit by the recession.

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Gold Key Matchmaking Service helps Indiana firm to “Look South”

February 7, 2014

Conner Moore recently completed an internship in the International Trade Administration’s Office for Export Policy, Promotion, and Strategy.

Even though the Look South initiative is just getting started companies like Indiana-based Escalade Sports are already looking south by using Mexico as a stepping stone to other Latin American markets. Escalade is an internationally known manufacturer and distributor of sporting goods brands. Back in 2005, National Account and International Sales Manager Marla Fredrich targeted sales to Mexico as a springboard to Latin America.

After teaming up with Dusan Marinkovic, a trade specialist with the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service (CS) in Indiana, Escalade benefitted from export counseling and the CS Gold Key Matchmaking Service.

This service helps U.S. companies find potential overseas business opportunities by arranging business meetings with pre-screened contacts, representatives, distributors, professional associations, government contacts, and/or licensing or joint venture partners.

Through the Gold Key, Fredrich traveled to Mexico and met with pre-screened prospective business partners arranged by CS trade professionals at the U.S. Embassy.

As a result of ongoing CS assistance, Escalade made its first sale to Mexico and continues to increase its sales to the country. Having established a foothold in Mexico, Escalade has since looked south and started exporting to other parts of Latin America, including Colombia and the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement countries of El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.

Fredrich is upbeat about the region, and sees a lot more opportunity.

“We are now reaping the fruits of our hard work in making new sales to world markets, and Latin America has become a key focus of our international business strategy,” she says. “There’s no doubt that learning the ins and outs of selling to Mexico and working with the Commercial Service gave us more confidence in expanding our sales to other parts of Latin America.”

Fredrich also said that Escalade’s involvement in exporting and international diversification has enabled it to weather the changes in the global economy, and to grow and become more internationally competitive. As a result, the company has been able to sustain and support many new jobs in the United States.

Whatever and wherever your business is, the International Trade Administration can help any company that is ready to start exporting, expand to new markets, and begin to “Look South.”

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Commercial Service Helps New Jersey Company Transition to Global Market

January 30, 2014

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center. 

Adsorptech is a New Jersey-based small business that began as a consulting firm. After choosing to get involved in equipment production, the company sought guidance from the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service.

The Commercial Service team, partnering with the New Jersey Business Action Center, determined that the prime markets for Adsorptech’s products were actually outside of North America. This encouraged the company’s leaders to begin looking outside the United States for its next group of customers.

Adsorptech CEO Jim Flaherty spoke with Doug Barry of ITA’s Global Knowledge Center about how support from the Commercial Service ultimately helped the company through its transition into production and the global marketplace.

Barry:  What specifically did the U.S. Commercial Service offer?

Flaherty: When we first met they were actually willing to do work specific to our needs. We are a small business. We have families to feed, our business to run, customers that already existed. We couldn’t dedicate the majority of our time to exploring these new markets only on a website.

The Commercial Service took time to understand what our product was, how it worked and where it might fit. They went out and did the actual market surveys and came up with what geographies in the world would represent the most likely benefit in the shortest amount of time.

Barry: And then what happened?

Flaherty: Then, we took them up on their offer for doing a Gold Key Service (buyer finding) and we chose two markets. With their help, we chose Turkey and Colombia as the two markets that our product would sell the quickest. They helped us find and interview potential distributors in those two geographies. As a small business we can’t afford to set up shop anywhere, so going through distributors is the best route for Adsorptech.

Barry: How long did it take to get rolling in new international markets?

Flaherty: We’re very aggressive. We already have our first international sale — six months within putting together the strategy, so to me that’s light years. If anyone said what’s the greatest benefit of working with the Commercial Service — it’s speed. They cut off at least three years to the process of understanding how to get the first export to market. We’re off to the races, and it will be a wonderful problem to manage our time.

Barry: Were you intimidated about going outside of the United States to make these sales?

Flaherty: Scared to death! The world is so enormous. The first concern was “My goodness, where do we go?” And it was that help that elevated our comfort level immediately because we had tangible information upon which we could make a decision, instead of just guess. We’re engineers!

Barry: Are you better because of your international experience?

Flaherty: Absolutely. And we’re also better focused. Before as a small business that didn’t have a very specific strategy and target market, we were like the blind squirrel looking for the nut. Eventually you’ll find one, but that’s not going to create a sustained business. The support has helped us see how we can be sustainable. If we’re not going to be around in two to three years, why would anybody want to do business with us?

Barry: You seem optimistic about the future.

Flaherty: Exhilarated more than optimistic. The Commercial Service has shown me and Adsorptech how we can actually accomplish something. The first steps we took were tangibly accurate. As an engineer, proof is in the pudding. 

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Handy Men and Women Keep the World’s Machinery Humming

January 7, 2014

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center. 

ERD Limited is a North Carolina-based company that has seen its number of export markets more than quintuple in less than three years. In that time span, its revenues from global sales went from four percent of total revenue to 25 percent.

Tom Robinson of ERD Limited sat down with ITA’s Doug Barry to discuss how his company expanded to so many export markets with support from the International Trade Administration and other government partners.

Barry: Describe your company. How did it start?

Robinson: ERD Limited is an electronic repair facility. It is engineer-owned and operated. We have been in business for about 20 years in Kernersville, NC. We’re different from our competitors in that we do what we call high-level electronic repairs, of all types and varieties, on basic boards to sophisticated robotics. We deal in what’s called “legacy electronics.”

Barry: Is that a fancy way of saying that you fix used stuff?

Robinson: Yes. Most people don’t realize it, but 85 percent of what’s made or moved in the world today is done so by equipment that is almost 14 years old. Although this is a technology and whizz-bang kind of society, and we think everything is new, it’s really not that way. Those pieces of equipment are breaking down, the manufacturers may be long gone or bought up by another company, and what is needed to support those electronics is no longer available. That’s where we come in.

Barry: Where do you do business?

Robinson: About two and a half years ago we were doing business in 10 countries, and because of our connection with the U.S. Commercial Service [part of ITA], the State of North Carolina Department of Commerce, and the Small Business Technical Development Center, we have gone from 10 countries to 65. Revenue from international business is about 25 percent for 2013, which is up from four percent just a few years ago.

Barry: How did you expand to so many markets in such a short time, especially since the majority of U.S. exporters sell to only one market?

Robinson: One of the things about our company that’s very unusual is we did this expansion and growth without having any salespeople in country. We developed a Web presence that is probably second to none right now, using YouTube and all the latest social networking. When there is a problem and someone needs equipment repaired, we pop up very high in search engines.

Second, the U.S. Commercial Service has been very instrumental in identifying places that we need to look at, and we have used their Gold Key Service. We just recently came back from China, and that was partially done through a Gold Key, in which we met two of the major manufacturers of cell phones in China and the world. And we had very successful one-on-one meetings with them, to the point where a relationship is forming.

Barry: What’s your advice for small companies that are interested in exporting in a more strategic way?

Robinson: My advice would be to take a look at yourself. Make sure that you’re ready to do these things and that you have an understanding of who you are, what your marketplace is, and the cultures that you will be dealing with, because they are different. If you walk into it blindly you may be thinking you’re winning when you’re actually losing, and actually winning when you think you’re losing. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth doing.

Barry: Are you a better company as a result of your international experience?

Robinson: Oh, we are more refined and defined than we ever were prior to starting the process. We have weekly meetings on what we can do better, how we can do it, and the igniter was the international marketplace and what it offered and the fact that there is so much business out there outside of the United States.

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Big Turnout in NYC Puts Spotlight on Exporting Anniversary

December 20, 2013

Curt Cultice is a Senior Communications Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service.

An official proclamation from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared Dec. 16 as "NY U.S. Export Assistance Center Day," in honor of 100 years of export assistance in the city.

An official proclamation from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared Dec. 16 as “NY U.S. Export Assistance Center Day,” in honor of 100 years of export assistance in the city.

The Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York City was the setting on a wintery Monday, December 16, as more than 250 businesspeople and other participants turned out for the 100th anniversary celebration of the opening of the New York U.S. Export Assistance Center. Mayor Michael Bloomberg also proclaimed December 16 as “NY U.S. Export Assistance Center Day,” further recognizing the impressive milestone.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Judy Reinke keynoted the event, saying, “New York businesses recognized 100 years ago what we know holds true today: The world is full of consumers who highly value U.S.-made products.”

Last year, the New York City metro area exported $102.3 billion in merchandise exports to world markets, making it the 2nd largest metropolitan export source in the United States.

The NYC event, hosted by the New York District Export Council, also highlighted the importance of exporting through a panel discussion moderated by Deputy Assistant Secretary for U.S. Field Operations Antwaun Griffin, with an array of award-winning exporters participating.

Many of the companies were previous Presidential “E Award” or U.S. Department of Commerce Export Achievement Certificate awardees who have benefitted from local U.S. Commercial Service Export Assistance Center services in their export endeavors.

Helene Herman, director of global marketing for Brooklyn-based Lee Spring, a manufacturer of wire springs, said at the event that the International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service as being of the “best kept secrets” in business and that more businesses should take advantage of the many export services offered. Lee Spring currently sells goods worldwide and has utilized a range of export services.

“Overseas clients often have a perception of American products as being higher quality,” she said, noting her company’s success in China as one example.

Acting Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Judy Reinke reminded businesses that exporting can be an important way to increase revenues.

Acting Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Judy Reinke reminded New York business leaders that exporting can be an important way to increase revenues.

Among the companies represented and benefitting from export assistance was family-owned Love & Quiches Gourmet of Long Island, which has utilized export counseling and Export-Import Bank financing to sell its gourmet foods to multiple world markets; The Jump Apparel Group of Manhattan, which is marketing its innovative dress and sportswear line of clothing in more than 20 international stores and home shopping networks; and Lumi-Solair, which recently made its first international sale, supplying  renewable, grid-free power equipment to India. The sale enabled the firm to sustain local NYC jobs.

Exporting is more beneficial than ever, even for the smallest businesses looking to strengthen their bottom line. This was further demonstrated by the entrepreneurial spirit at the event’s “International Trade Showcase,” where program attendees perused the products and services exhibited by 20 successful local exporters – selling everything from hop extracts and oils, to wire springs, hydraulic technology, language software, and export management services, to name a few products.

Summing up the importance of exporting, Reinke added: “We remain focused on reaching President Obama’s National Export Strategy goals because we know that in today’s global economy, if you’re not exporting, you’re falling behind.”

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“Squeezing In” to New International Markets

December 2, 2013
Rep. David Price and ITA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations Antwaun Griffin recognize Urban Planet Mobile with an Export Achievement Certificate at the 2013 Discover Forum.

Rep. David Price, D-NC, (left) and ITA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations Antwaun Griffin (right) recognize Urban Planet Mobile with an Export Achievement Certificate at the 2013 Discover Forum.

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center. 

Urban Planet Mobile (UPM), based in Durham, N.C., specializes in education applications that can be used on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to teach users to speak English. The company started in 2008, and has used services from the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Commercial Service to develop a customer base in 38 countries. Doug Barry of ITA’s Global Knowledge Center sat down with UPM founder Brian Oliversmith during a recent conference to discuss the company and how government support has helped UPM succeed overseas.

Barry: What’s your product and where are you selling it?

Oliversmith: When we told people we were doing mobile education they thought we would be training our mothers how to use their cell phone. What we do is develop education products we can deliver over the mobile networks.

Our best-selling product is Urban English. We’re selling it from Burma to Malaysia and Indonesia in the Southeast Asia region to Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. Our latest effort has been a large launch in Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, and we are now going into Nicaragua.

I would say about 85-90 percent of our business is export.

Barry: Are you growing and adding jobs?

Oliversmith: We are growing and adding. We have about 28 employees, and we’re growing both globally and here locally. I’m proud to say we just hired a recent intern yesterday who is going to be running a user interface design, and she came from the Durham Design School. We’re interviewing another fellow from Duke this summer.

Barry: Any humorous stories about different kinds of English and how they’re learned?

Oliversmith: It’s interesting, when I went to Indonesia, one of the Indonesian guys said something about “Let me squeeze back in” because we were in a very, very narrow hallway. He said: “Squeeze in. I know that phrase. I learned that yesterday on Urban English.” We teach a more relaxed, casual communication. We even have a line called Urban English Hip Hop, which uses Hip Hop to teach conversation.

Barry: Is your company a better company as a result of its international experience?

Oliversmith: I absolutely think our company is a better and stronger company because of our international exposure and the reason why is because it has caused us to diversify our workforce from day one. In our little team, we have people from Santiago, Chile, and Lithuania to people who are from Russia and Korea, and Japan. And many of them have been with us three or four years. It gives us a global perspective. It’s very hard to do business worldwide from a very American-centric perspective.

Barry: Do you mentor non-exporting companies in the area and what do you say to them?

Oliversmith: We actually do. We have a strategic relationship and a partnership with a large education company, Measurement Incorporated, here in Durham that employs about 400 people but doesn’t do any exporting. They’ve started an alliance with us, and are seeing what demand is for some of their products in an external market.I think it’s started to really open up their eyes to the opportunity they have internationally.

What I tell people is there is a great big world out there that is very, very hungry for education products, especially American education products. If they start working with some of the folks at the U.S. Commercial Service, where we started, they can get some good guidance on where to start.

Barry: Can you say more about the difference government assistance made in where you are today?

Oliversmith: The year 2008 was a really tough time to start a company, because this little recession happened about five months later. So we had to be very careful where we were going to spend marketing budgets and resources.

Our first major investment was to fly to a conference at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, co-sponsored by the U.S. Commercial Service. I sat down with about 18 Commercial Service officers from all over Asia where I had never been. I started to narrow down where we were going to first jump into the market, where we would start to spend our real resources. It was an amazing three days. I learned more in that conference than I could have learned in two years flying around on airplanes. Since then we now invest in those countries and are up and operational in many of them.

Barry: And your local export assistance center, have they been helpful?

Oliversmith: Incredible. Before we knew it, we were in a wonderful university they found for us in Burma, and less than nine months later we launched our product there.

I think a lot of companies have the wrong attitude that they need to wait until they’re a certain size to export, and really, exporting can help take you to that certain size. I would encourage people to start at an earlier stage to see what they can learn from the U.S. Commercial Service.  How owners, without having to go to all these countries, can learn a lot about where they should start.

Go early. Don’t wait.

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Helping Feed the World Through Exports

September 13, 2013

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center. 

Zeigler Bros, Inc. (Zeigler), founded by brothers Ty and Leroy Zeigler, started as a local producer of poultry and livestock feed for farmers in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, area in 1935. Leroy’s son, Tom, took over and changed the company’s direction to focus on research and development of specialty animal foods and aquatic diets. Today, the company continues to develop new and innovative technologies and manufactures more than 300 products, including at two facilities in Pennsylvania, and exports their goods to between 40 and 50 countries each year.

Zeigler has worked closely with the International Trade Administration (ITA) to support its export growth, and is a 2013 recipient of the Presidential E-Award for Export Excellence, the highest government honor for increasing exports. Doug Barry, a Senior International Trade Specialist in ITA’s Global Knowledge Center, spoke with Zeigler’s international sales manager Chris Stock about the business and its exporting success.

Barry: Tell us about the business and what you produce.

Stock: We’re a manufacturer of specialty animal feeds. Our focus is aquaculture feeds, specifically for fish shrimp farms. We also do feeds for pet exotic animals. And we’re also involved with the biomedical research industry, helping provide specialty diets for the animals that serve as health models in research.

Barry: You’re not a Zeigler Brother. What’s your position with the company?

Stock: I manage the sales of the company in Asia. But I strictly focus on the aquaculture area, which is where a lot of our attention and efforts are involved. I’m only involved with export; I don’t do any domestic business. My eyes are overseas.

Barry: How long have you been exporting?

Stock: Zeigler’s been exporting for quite a while. It’s very ingrained in the company culture, which is a great reason for our success. In the mid ’80s is probably about the time it started. And our involvement with the aquaculture industry really helped pull us and propel us into export, because aquaculture is a very international business, and it happens more outside the U.S. than inside the U.S.

Barry: Tell us about the extent of your exports and how they contribute to the company’s success?

Stock: Exports have expanded rapidly, especially in the last handful of years. They now encompass a majority of our business, slightly over 50 percent. We’re exporting to between 40 and 50 different countries every year. Last count was 43; some come and go. But it’s a huge part of our business and it’s where we see the most growth opportunity. If we want to grow our business, it’s going to be through overseas markets.

We certainly have business in the U.S. and that’s important to us, but the U.S. market won’t be growing at the rate that the international markets are.

Barry: What markets are you focusing on, going forward?

Stock: Areas of interest most specifically are Africa and Southeast Asia. There are a number of countries in these areas – West Africa is a hotspot for us, specifically Nigeria and Ghana. Then in Southeast Asia, we look at Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, China, Philippines, Thailand, some of these countries.

Barry: What is attractive to you about Africa?

Stock: Africa is on the cusp, I think. A lot of people see the opportunity, so it’s a great time to get in early, because it’s a huge emerging middle class that’s developing there with spending power. They need things more than any other part of the world. They have a lack of access to some of the higher-tech products and things that the U.S. can offer.

And there’s reason to take it slow when entering Africa and be cautious, but the opportunity outweighs the risk, there’s no doubt about that.

Barry: And do you think that Zeigler is a better company because of exporting, and if so, in what ways?

Stock: Absolutely. It diversifies the company, allows us to be insulated from issues in one market or another. Our business is subject to seasonality as well, and it has reduced the impact of seasonality on our manufacturing. And it just connects us throughout the world. The Zeigler brand is known in our industry throughout the world, and that’s a tremendous privilege.

And it challenges us. We are able to take opportunities and things we learn in one country and apply them elsewhere. So we’re always learning and one of the great parts about our job is we’re connecting people throughout the world and bringing ideas from one place to the other, whether or not they directly impact our product.

Barry: And what about the U.S. government? What has it done for you?

Stock: The Commercial Service of the Department of Commerce is kind of a go-to for us when we run into issues. There’s always something popping up. When you export to 40 to 50 countries a year, there’s going to be something at any given point on your plate. And so it’s a common go-to kind of hub for us.

In general, we come to them when we have export regulatory issues and we need somebody inside the government to guide us. That’s a big thing about exporting is knowing that you don’t know it all and you’re always going to need support. The government has helped bring us into new markets. We went on a trade mission to Ghana when we were getting our Africa business warmed up and met people there that are clients now and important partners.

Barry: Advice for other U.S. exporters or for companies considering it?

Stock: It’s a no-brainer. You should be exporting. If you’re not, start learning about it, talk to other exporters and just go for it. I think the key things to exporting are persistence and patience.

You have to realize that when you get in this, it may not be immediate sales, it may take years, but you have to have the long-term vision. If you’re willing to go through a couple of ups and downs, it can pay off in dividends. If you don’t enter the export market, you’re limiting your sales in a big way, no doubt about it.

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N.C. Business Scores a Win: Receives FIFA Product License

September 10, 2013

Phillip Goldstein recently completed an internship in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. He is a senior at Middlebury College, majoring in International Politics & Economics

Once every four years, the world gets a taste of world class soccer with the FIFA World Cup. For Greensboro, NC-based University Print & Graphics, the 2014 World Cup experience will include more than just watching the games.

The International Federation of Association Football, popularly known by the French acronym FIFA, recently notified University Print & Graphics of approval for a product license. The company will be able to sell officially licensed hair bows at the World Cup in Brazil.

Chief Operating Officer and Co-Owner Michael Brunson came up with the idea during a trip to South Africa to watch the 2010 World Cup. It took the firm two years to apply for and receive the license from FIFA.

It’s a rigorous process to apply for such a license. Luckily, the company wasn’t alone – Debbie Strader and the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Greensboro helped the business navigate through the license application.

They worked together to make sure all parts of the export process had been taken care of, including finalizing product requirements, negotiating freight shipment rates, and securing legal representation. Strader also worked closely with the ITA team in Brazil, giving the company even more insight about doing business in the country.

This license means a lot for University Print & Graphics and for Greensboro. The company expects to hire as many as 25 additional employees under a new division that will handle many aspects of the World Cup campaign.

It’s a powerful team when it comes to exports – quality American products and ITA’s offices in the United States and around the world. We’d like to team up with your company too. If we can help your business increase exports, visit your local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

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Attila’s Guide to Conquering Export Markets

August 29, 2013

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center.

Attila Szucs started Advanced Superabrasives in Nashville, North Carolina, with one employee in the early 1990’s. In the years that followed he grew the domestic market for his products, then expanded internationally during the U.S. economic downturn.

Szucs’s company has used International Trade Administration services like the Gold Key matching service to develop international markets around the world. His company was recognized by the Commerce Department with an “E” Award for exporting. He shared his story with Doug Barry, an international trade specialist with the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center.

Barry: Tell us about your company.

Szucs: The company was founded in 1993 in Nashville, North Carolina. And basically we started with myself and another person, and today we’re exporting to 16 countries.

We manufacture super-abrasive grinding wheels for other manufacturers. Super-abrasive grinding wheels are a product that actually grinds hard materials such as ceramic, glass, quartz, steel–all materials that need to be manufactured to very high tolerances. And the best way to do that is through grinding.

Barry: How did you get the entrepreneur bug?

Szucs: It was from my father. He had his own business. He started his own business in the United States not too long after we arrived here. And he is the entrepreneur in the family, and that’s where I got it from.

Barry: What was the biggest challenge that you faced in the development of your company?

Szucs: We started with absolutely no sales in 1993, and we did a lot of research and development and testing to improve our product. And slowly but surely we started penetrating the market within the United States.

We started exporting in 1995 to Canada. And after about 2002, when the economy took a hit in United States, we started to look how we could diversify so we can insulate ourselves from economic downturn. That’s when we decided that we really needed to look at exports, and we started exporting to China and to Brazil.

Barry: How did you manage?

Szucs: We were lucky. We actually started talking to the U.S. Department of Commerce, from Charlotte, NC, and it was just absolutely wonderful how we were treated and how much help they were. Through their Gold Key program, that’s how we got into Brazil. And that program is so helpful that they set everything up for you and basically all we had to do is show up. They even helped us with an interpreter and they set up all the appointments for us. It was a wonderful experience.

So from that point on we really tried to work very, very closely with the U.S. Department of Commerce. And in North Carolina we also had the North Carolina Department of Commerce, who was also very helpful in helping us navigate through the exporting issues that may have come up.

Barry: But how did you know to contact these people to begin with? You’ve mentioned just showing up. That’s something that a lot of U.S. companies fail to do.

Szucs: Most small U.S. companies don’t know about that tremendous asset that we have, whether it’s from the federal level or the state level. We actually heard from another company who used the U.S. Department of Commerce which helped them export. And that’s why we contacted them and wanted to see how we could pursue the same route.

Barry: Have you learned things in your dealings with other countries – China, Brazil, elsewhere – that have made you a better company?

Szucs: We just came back from Seoul, Korea. We participated in Trade Winds Asia, a U.S. Commerce organized trade mission. And again, I can’t say enough about it because it is a tremendous amount of help to any U.S. company, especially small companies like ours, because we get to meet companies from the region – potential customers, potential distributors. Plus, we learn about the culture of each country in the region and what they’re looking for so we can better prepare ourselves when we start dealing with these companies. It was invaluable for us.

Barry: Have you modified your product at all, or modified your approach to doing business as a result of what you’ve learned by selling to people in other cultures?

Szucs: We absolutely had to, because different cultures have different needs and we really have to cater to their needs. We can’t use the same approach in Europe that we’re using in Asia.

The United States does have a good following. People around the world, especially in Asia, they look up to United States and to United States products. So if you’re sincere and you have a good product, you have a very good chance of selling overseas, especially in Asia.

Barry: Are you confident that after you recent trip to Asia that you’ll add to your current collection of country markets?

Szucs: Yes, I’m looking forward to adding Korea and Japan. Japan is the crown jewel for me.

Barry: Will the free-trade trade agreement with Korea help?

Szucs: I think it will. Anytime we have a free trade agreement, it definitely helps. And it removes some of the obstacles.

Barry: What’s your advice to U.S. companies that aren’t exporting now?

Szucs: You don’t have to be a large company to export. That’s number one. And we’re a prime example. We’re not a large company. Second, take one country at a time. And most important, get help. And I would highly recommend using the U.S. Department of Commerce and your own local state department of commerce, because it will help navigate those troubled waters of export. Depending on which country you’re trying to get into, it could be a tremendous help to have people help you with the exports.

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