Best Practices

Six Steps to Begin Exporting

Published Jun 28, 2013 by

Exporting is a big deal for many small businesses. Did you know?

  • 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside of the United States--70% of the world’s purchasing power--so if a U.S. business is only selling domestically, it is reaching just a small share of potential customers.
  • Exporting enables companies to diversify their portfolios and to weather changes in the domestic economy.
  • Exporting helps small companies grow and become more competitive in all their markets.
  • In the past 20 years, U.S. exports increased from $421 billion in 1989 to more than $1.54 trillion in 2012.
  • Small and medium-sized firms account for the vast majority of growth in new exporters.
  • In nearly all states,  70% or more of businesses involved in international trade are small and medium-sized companies.

The SBA and the U.S. Department of Commerce provide six steps to begin exporting.

Step 1: Take the Free Export Readiness Self-Assessment

Do you have what it takes to become a successful exporter?  Complete the online questionnaire and get feedback to help assess your readiness.

Step 2: Training and Counseling

You may think exporting is complicated but the key to export success is to start training and get counseling.  Your local U.S.SourceLink affiliate can help you find resources in your area.

Step 3: Create an Export Business Plan

Define your company’s present status, internal goals and commitment. Then build out your export plan by assembling facts, identifying constraints and setting specific goals and objectives.  The Small Business Administration has an online tool to help you develop your Export Business Plan. 

Step 4: Conduct Market Research

Market research helps you understand your product’s potential in a given market.  The SBA’s Market Research Library and Trade Data are good places to start.

Step 5: Find Buyers

Local resources can help you learn about potential markets through organized trade missions and expos. Opportunities range from meeting foreign buyer delegations at U.S. trade shows to actual missions in foreign countries.

Step 6: Investigate Financing

Become familiar with the financing, insurance and grant programs available to help your company finance its transactions and assist in carrying out your export operations. The U.S. Government offers four different types of financing programs:

  • Export Development and Working Capital Financing
  • Facilities Development Financing
  • Financing for Your International Buyers
  • Investment Project Financing

Your local SBA or U.S. Commercial Services representative can give you all the details on loans and grants.

Content contributed by Kate Pope Hodel, MOSourceLink, a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.