Posts Tagged ‘Commercial Service’

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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.

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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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Discovering the Path to Compete, Win, and Grow in Exports

September 19, 2013

Greg Sizemore is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service in North Carolina. 

The Discover Forum featured an impressive list of speakers providing insight on doing business around the world. The image shows one speaker addressing all attendees during a keynote address.

The Discover Forum featured an impressive list of speakers providing insight on doing business around the world.

I just met 400 new contributors to the nation’s economic recovery.

After wrapping up this year’s Discover Forum, a premier event for businesses looking to increase exports, I’ve never been more confident about American companies and their desire and ability to compete in the global marketplace. Our ITA team worked with more than 300 business attendees from Raleigh, N.C., to San Antonio, Texas, to St. Paul, Minn., focusing on export strategies.

We had presentations about doing business all around the world, featuring speakers from the public and private sector who know how to compete and win overseas. Commercial diplomats from embassies across the world shared insights about doing business in their respective markets.

Representatives from companies like Western Union, Research Triangle Institute International, and Accenture shared their lessons learned and the strategies that have led to export successes for their businesses.

A buying delegation from Nigeria attended the Discover Forum, making connections with American businesses looking to do business in Africa.

A buying delegation from Nigeria attended the Discover Forum, making connections with American businesses looking to do business in Africa.

On top of that, U.S. commercial diplomats from 20 countries conducted more than 700 one-on-one counseling sessions with individual companies looking to develop export strategies for markets like Kuwait, Australia, and Chile. A special buying delegation from Nigeria met with several companies about doing business in Africa.

Add that in with the networking that always occurs at events like this, and what you have is a top-notch forum to assist any U.S. company interested in doing business overseas.

Discover Forum provided the knowledge and the connections that can give any business an advantage in the global marketplace.

Even better, the learning opportunities don’t end now that the forum is complete. Our trade specialists will continue to work with clients who attended so we can further develop export strategies. We’ll continue to share the information from this forum with other clients who request assistance from ITA. Upcoming annual events like Trade Winds, ACCESS, and next year’s Discover Forum will provide further learning opportunities for U.S. businesses. You can learn about all of our export promotion events and services at www.export.gov.

I can’t stress enough how helpful an event like this can be for a globally focused American business. I’m certain that anyone that attended Discover can vouch for how much they learned.

Wherever your business is, our ITA team is standing by to help any company that is ready to start exporting. I encourage you to contact your nearest Export Assistance Center, and I hope I will see you next year at Discover.

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Build it…and They Will Export!

March 23, 2011
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Andrew Wylegala is the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Serivce’s Senior Commercial Officer in Hong Kong.

San Francisco’s economy is tourists, bankers, Craigslist and, of course, Twitter.  Wrong spot to send a government export promoter looking for more Made in the USA material to help reach the President’s National Export goal of saving or creating some two million jobs by 2015.

Maybe not.

I’ve opted to stop in the services city by the bay en route to the annual Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference held at the University of Southern California’s business school, where this year 180 US firms will come for updates on Asian markets and export tips, and to hear from Secretary Gary Locke.  The Commercial Service, part of the International Trade Administration, an operating unit in Mr. Locke’s Department, assigned me to Hong Kong to work on behalf of U.S. companies and economic interests about three years ago.  I’ll be joined at the conference by a dozen of my colleagues similarly positioned in other Asian capitals to do the same export enhancing work.  This year I’ve opted to stop in San Francisco to meet with current and future U.S. exporters, in addition to those meeting us in LA for the seminars and one-on-one counseling sessions.

Left to right: Commercial Officer Douglas Wallace, Commercial Officer Andrew Wylegala, and Sculptor/Manufacturer, Capitano di Minuzie Nikolas Weinstein stand on the Weinstein Studios shop floor.

Left to right: Commercial Officer Douglas Wallace, Commercial Officer Andrew Wylegala, and Sculptor/Manufacturer, Capitano di Minuzie Nikolas Weinstein stand on the Weinstein Studios shop floor.

I am standing in the middle of Nikolas Weinstein’s glass sculpture studio located improbably enough behind a Mission District laundromat.  And I am trying to decide which is more shocking — the 30′ undulation of helix-shaped glass tubes of a work in progress, suspended above the furnace, forklift and flat-panel displays of this compact factory, or the discovery that precision manufacture on an industrial scale can still be carried out in San Francisco.  Downtown San Francisco!  We ARE  talking export manufacture.  The vast majority of Nick’s work is destined for grand residences and luxury hotels overseas, mostly in Asian cities such as Singapore and Shanghai.  And we are talking BIG exports.   I learn that — at over 250′ unfurled — the glass “fabric” of a work now soaring above the lobbies of a Shanghai luxury hotel (looking in the glossy photos like one of those Chinese acrobat’s ribbons) and comprised of some 35,000 hand-worked glass tubes, would not have fit in the 747 that brought me here from Hong Kong overnight.  And we are talking innovation.  To execute the unique forms of a Weinstein chandelier I now recall visiting at a Gehry-designed bank headquarters next to the re-constructed American Embassy in Berlin, Nick’s team even had to invent a special matrix bed for the in situ kiln.

But Nick is explaining that it is not finding more projects in booming Asia, nor the glass- and mind-bending technical complexity of his shapes, nor even the delivery headaches of the fragile works that keep him up at night.  It turns out that the chain of glass blowers, metal formers and ceramic suppliers needed to execute these fantasies in glass is nearly as long as some of his installations.  And the nature of this work — one-off, site-specific projects whose execution requires endless iteration of tweak and turn — is such that relative proximity is a must.

So this preview stop of my Business Outlook Conference tour reveals a snapshot as complex and organic as a Weinstein: the offering of conceived- and fabricated-in-the U.S. product remains as rich as ever, but the challenge of keeping U.S. production chains short enough that they remain linked is a daunting one.  I am thinking that U.S. export growth can be part of the solution to this challenge, by providing Nick’s manufacturer partners with sufficient scale and income to stay in business and in Nick’s “neighborhood.”  Should this prove to be the case, we will not only reach that National Export goal but also prove to the world that, “yeah, we DO still make stuff in the U.S.”  The best stuff.

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Potential Matches Made in CES Heaven

January 7, 2011

 

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Vidya Desai is an International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service International Buyer Program.

The Consumer Electronics Association and the U.S. Commercial Service International Buyer Program joined forces last night to provide U.S. companies with a dynamic opportunity to meet hundreds of international buyers at the Global Matchmaking and International Reception (GMIR).  ITA’s Deputy Under Secretary Michelle O’Neill joined us for the first ever GMIR at CES where five U.S. companies (Earthquake Sound Corporation, ZREISS, Meridrew Enterprises, Livio Radio, and Freelinc) connected their tabletop product or service displays with hundreds of foreign buyers in a reception setting off the show floor. Among the hundreds of attendees at this event were several foreign buyer delegations recruited by the International Buyer Program.  The reception was a great way to meet with prospective new customers; network with foreign buyers and industry professionals; and entertain new contacts in a hospitable and professional venue!

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How do U.S. Companies Benefit from Attending Trade Shows Selected by the U.S. Commercial Service?

January 5, 2011

Philippa Olsen is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at the U.S. Commercial Service.

Did you know that a U.S. company can jumpstart its international sales by attending a domestic trade show? Here are some of the benefits:

  • Participate in face-to-face meetings with pre-screened international buyers
  • Save time and money by meeting international partners domestically
  • Get tips from International U.S. Commercial Service trade specialists on doing business abroad
  • Learn about trends and recent development in key industries

The U.S. Commercial Service’s International Buyer Program (IBP) recruits thousands of qualified foreign buyers, sales representatives, and business partners to U.S. trade shows each year, giving exhibitors excellent opportunities to expand business globally.  Check out the International Buyer Program Trade Show Schedule to learn more about individual shows.

A U.S. Commercial Service client who recently attended an IBP show states “There’s really no substitute for the face-to-face meetings you can get at trade show venues, where you have all these potential buyers under one room.  As a result, I’ve been able to meet potential partners and negotiate several deals in a matter of several months.”

To find out more, visit the International Buyer Program page.

Get updates from IBP on the upcoming 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, by following our social media.

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Do You Want To Increase Your Sales And Expand Your Business?

January 5, 2011

 

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Vidya Desai is a Senior International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service International Buyer Program.

The International Buyer Program (IBP) is a joint government-industry effort designed to increase U.S. export sales by promoting international attendance at major U.S. industry exhibitions. The IBP provides practical, hands-on assistance to U.S. exhibitors interested in exporting and making contacts with prospective overseas trade partners. This assistance includes export counseling, marketing analysis, and matchmaking services.  The IBP is an important part of our implementation of the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative which aims to double the value of U.S. exports over the next five years.

If you’re a U.S. company, your chances of finding the right international business partner greatly increases at a trade show that’s part of the IBP. You’ll not only meet more international buyers, representatives and distributors, but your products and services can be listed in the Export Interest Directory distributed to all international visitors to the show.   You will also have access to an on-site International Business Center, where your company can meet privately with prospective international buyers, sales representatives, and business partners and obtain assistance from our experienced U.S. Commercial Service staff.

Currently, there are 40 U.S. trade shows participating in the International Buyer Program in 2011, including the current Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2011 in Las Vegas, NV where hundreds of international buyers are looking to buy U.S. products and services.  Contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center to find out more information about the export assistance you can receive prior to, during, and following an IBP selected trade show.  Now that you know about the benefits and opportunities that can emerge from participating in a U.S. trade show participating in the IBP, we hope that you will include some of these events in your marketing strategies for 2011!

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Shssssssh! Don’t Tell Anyone How You Increased Your International Sales

December 9, 2010

Doug Barry is a senior international trade specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service.

A best-kept secret is that domestic trade shows are great places to meet and sell to international buyers.  U.S. businesses that have discovered this relatively low-cost channel for drumming up new sales claim that exhibiting at the “right” shows can fill their order books for the entire year.


Download full video .mp4 (47 MB)
View more from the Trade Show Video Series

It may sound counter intuitive to make international sales without leaving the U.S., but the fact is that international buyers are attracted to large trade shows in the U.S.  And let’s not forget the draw of Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami and other big trade show venues.

So what are the “right” shows out of the hundreds held annually across the country?  It depends on the industry you are in, but the first tier of shows to consider is those that offer the International Buyer Program (IBP), a service that facilitates buyer-seller matchmaking and made possible by the Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Service.  IBP is an important part of the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative which aims to double the value of U.S. exports over the next five years.

Shows are competitively selected each year based on their attractiveness to buyers in industries and countries that are considered best prospects for U.S. suppliers.  The range of industries this year is broad and includes obvious ones such as construction, power generation and restaurant equipment, as well as less obvious ones like dental hardware and funeral supplies.  Come to think of it death has always been a growth industry, and although post-life practices may vary by culture and country the market is enduringly global.

With almost 40 International Buyer Program shows to choose from many U.S. businesses will find one that’s suited to them.  Ideally, the process begins by contacting your local U.S. Export Assistance Center, part of the worldwide network operated by the Commerce Department.

Export experts will help prepare you to use services at the show to meet the international buyers that are recruited by U.S. embassies.  Preliminary contact and information exchanges are arrange beforehand, but the real business is done on the show floor and in a special area called the International Business Centers, which feature conference rooms for conducting negotiations.

Billions of dollars in sales are registered each year, and most of the U.S. companies making the sales are smaller companies.  So now that we’ve pulled the cover off this formerly best-kept secret, watch the four videos on the IBP (so far) and see for yourself how companies like yours are selling globally without going far from home.

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