Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

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Handy Men and Women Keep the World’s Machinery Humming

January 7, 2014

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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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“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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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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Discover What’s Next for Your Business at the Discover Forum

August 22, 2013

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Shirreef Loza and Frances Selema are Senior International Trade Specialists with the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Raleigh, NC.

The Discover Forum will be held in Raleigh, NC, from Sept. 16-18.

There are plenty of questions for a small business looking to start exporting. What markets are best suited for your company’s products? How can you compete with larger companies? How can you get paid for your products? What kind of research do you need to do to begin exporting?

Luckily, you can get answers to all these questions and more at the 2013 Discover Global Forum in Raleigh, NC, Sept. 16-18.

This two-day summit will feature some of the world’s most knowledgeable people when it comes to exporting. Trade specialists from around the globe will be on hand to share inside tips about doing business in established and emerging markets, from Africa to Asia and the Middle East to South America.

Update: Check out a video about the Discover Forum 2013.

These specialists work every day in some of the world’s fastest growing economies – markets with consumers who are actively seeking the made-in-USA label. They know the best ways to bring your products to customers around the world.

The Discover Forum is the perfect opportunity for any U.S. business looking to begin exporting or to expand exports.

There’s no question that exporting is a great way to grow just about any business. It can protect your company from fluctuations in a single regional or national economy. It can expand your customer base, increasing sales and profits. It can also help create jobs in your town and boost the local economy.

We’ve shared several stories recently about just a fraction of the companies who have experienced new levels of success because of exporting.

Your company could be the next success story.

We at the International Trade Administration are proud to partner with the North Carolina District Export Council and other organizations to host the Discover Forum because exports are crucial to supporting the American economic recovery. Exports support millions of jobs, and that leads to greater prosperity here at home.

If your business is ready to start or increase exporting, register now for the Discover Forum. You can also follow the Forum on Twitter or contact us for more information.

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State Economies Get Boost from Exports

August 8, 2013

Calynn Jenkins is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. She is studying political science at American University. 

Seventeen states set export records in the first half of 2013, including Connecticut, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Seventeen states set export records in the first half of 2013, including Connecticut, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

If your business is not exporting, you may be missing out on key opportunities to expand your business and increase your bottom line.

New data released from the International Trade Administration (ITA) on state exports from the first six months of 2013 shows U.S. merchandise exports totaled a record $781 billion. Oklahoma, Georgia, and North Carolina are among 17 states that reached record highs in merchandise exports.

Goods exports from Texas grew the most in dollar terms, rising from $4.3 billion to $134.4 billion. Washington (up $3.8 billion), New York (up $2.8 billion), Kentucky (up $1.4 billion), and Louisiana ($960 million) were the next largest.

Exports are an important driver of U.S. economic growth. Total merchandise exports from all 50 states contributed to a record $2.2 trillion in goods and services exports in 2012, which supported nearly 10 million jobs. According to new data from the first half of 2013, U.S. exports are on track for another record year.

The Obama administration has made exports a national priority, launching the National Export Initiative (NEI) in 2010 to support American jobs. Helping U.S. companies become more competitive internationally is a critical step to shaping an American economy built to last. The Department of Commerce and ITA are committed to continuing the trend of export growth.

More information about individual state contribution to national exports is available through the International Trade Administration’s Office of Trade and Industry Information web page.

If your business is ready to take advantage of opportunities overseas, ITA is here to support. We helped U.S. businesses achieve more than 14,000 export successes in 2012. Visit your local Export Assistance Center today.

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