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Hey everybody, this is Gene Marks and welcome to this week’s edition of the Hartford Small Biz Ahead podcast. Let’s talk this week about doing business internationally. A lot of small businesses are… like many of my clients… do have a need or an urge or a desire to expand their reach, not only to sell their products into new markets, but also to get vendors and suppliers in new markets as well. I have one client, they’re located outside of Philadelphia, and they’re a manufacturer and a lot of their core materials that they, that they buy comes from suppliers overseas, China and India. And they’re always looking for more suppliers for their business. Where can they get more affordable, cheap materials that they can turn into their products and obviously and sell them.
So, their big issue is finding supply. I have another client in central Pennsylvania. The sell parts in the auto industry and they serve like a submarket of the auto industry and they’re constantly looking for new customers, all around the world where they can sell their parts to those customers because those customers also sell into the auto industry, or even the machinery and equipment industry, where their parts can be used as well. So there’s this need. I mean, I realize if you’re running a local pizza shop or a restaurant or a retail store, maybe there’s not as much of a need to find suppliers or customers overseas. But listen, if you’re doing a lot of work like e-commerce, if you’re selling stuff online, if you’re always looking for products that you can resell through your website or even inside in your store, you’re looking for supplies all around the world.
Where do you find them? How do you get started? Well, there’s a few organizations I wanted to make you aware of that I think can really be a big help for you. So, for starters, the federal government, the Department of Commerce has their International Trade Administration. That website is trade.gov, TRADE.gov. If you’re in a state, like in my state of Pennsylvania, most of your states have some type of trade associations related to… to help their state businesses expand. So, in Pennsylvania, it’s the Office of International Business Development, for example. Depending on your state, just Google international trade in the name of your state or your state’s Department of Commerce. Look at that state’s Department of Commerce website, and I bet you’ll be able to find some type of resource, some division that helps businesses within your state find both customers and suppliers and get to know the rules and the regulations of other countries.
Also, there’s the Small Business Administration. The SBA has their Office of International Trade. So if you go to sba.gov, you will find their Office of International Trade. And that is also another really great resource for you. Finally, and I wrote about this recently elsewhere, not on Small Biz ahead, but I’d love to do this for Small Biz Ahead. The World Trade Centers Association, they have establishments in a couple hundred cities around the world, in 92 countries. Their website is wtca.org, the World Trade Centers Association. And if you’re located in or near a larger city in the U.S., there’s probably a branch of the World Trade Center Association that’s near you that you can take advantage of. So, what are you looking for from these organizations? Well, first of all, because a lot of these organizations are nonprofits or they’re government related organizations, the cost to use them is essentially free.
The World Trade Center Association, they do want you to become a member. And so you pay a few hundred bucks a year. But other than that, if you want to deal directly with the government, the SBA, your state’s Department of Commerce, the International Trade Association, on the federal side, those generally come at no cost. I like smaller non-profit groups that are local that focus on their local businesses, mainly because you do get more of a personalized service than dealing with a government agency. But I don’t wanna knock the government agencies either, cuz there are plenty of good people there that provide really, really good services. So what kind of services are we talking about? Well, they make introduction. A lot of these organizations and associations, they do events all the time.
They do networking events. They do speed dating events, they do conferences, they do presentations. It’s a networking thing. And a lot of them have… they keep the companies that work with them involved in some way. So they have these companies coming back to tell their stories. And not only that, but the people that come to these events are oftentimes trade representatives from all around the world, because they’re looking for American companies to buy and sell in their countries as well. So if you reach out to those organizations, attend one of their events, go to one of their networking things, you’re gonna wind up meeting people and having your eyes opened… for potential opportunities for your business. Now, in addition to events, most of these organizations provide some sort of counseling, particularly for small and mid-size businesses.
So they will connect you to a specific counselor and the counselor itself can actually help you with introductions to trade representatives, to actual suppliers, actual customers. They will do market research for you. I mean, if you’re looking for supplies of a certain product or you’re looking to sell your product into a certain area or region. Those organizations can help you identify which regions might be best or which might have the most suppliers or customers that you can take advantage of. So you can get personal counseling, actual people that will help you with introductions. Some of them even go one step further. I mean, they will arrange travel for you, they will arrange meetings for you. Some of them in the past have actually accompanied their customers, their clients to those countries from a safety standpoint, from an introduction standpoint. That’s why they exist.
They are, these are nonprofits and government agencies that are funded to help American businesses do overseas… do business overseas. And so, they’re there to provide those services for you. Finally, besides like the events, the conferences, the networking events, the one-on-one counseling, the consulting they do, the market research that they do. All of these organizations also offer trainings as well. A lot of… face-to-face or online where you can learn the ins and outs of selling products to other countries. What are the tax rules and the duty rules and the regulations that you need to be aware of. So, I introduced my clients, the one in Pennsylvania that has suppliers in China and Vietnam… sorry, in India because they were really looking to expand. They do like doing business in India. They’re more nervous about doing business in China, although they have some good relationships there.
So, they did get involved at our local World Trade Center Association actually, and they got great introductions to like-minded companies and organizations in Vietnam and also in South America, Mexico too. So, they were able to establish other lines of supply around the world just by participating in some of the events and then connecting with one of the counselors at that World Trade Center and then getting introductions made for them and helping them expand their business. If you are looking to expand your business overseas, if you’re looking for overseas suppliers, if you’re looking to sell into other countries, you can do all of that. What you should be doing is reaching out to those organizations that support these kinds of activities. So again, in the Department of Commerce from the U.S. it’s their International Trade Administration, it’s trade.gov.
Your local state Department of Commerce probably has some type of international trade division. The small business administration has the SBA’s Office of International Trade. You can find that at SBA.gov and check out the World Trade Center Network as well. That’s… it’s wtca.org. You should be able to find a World Trade Center somewhere near you that you can connect with and also get that kind of counseling. So go for it. Good luck. Expand overseas, buy your products overseas, sell your products to different markets overseas. It’s not as hard as you think. It’s like anything else in running a business. Get out of it what you put into it. So hey, I hope this information has helped you. My name is Gene Marks. You have been listening to this week’s episode of Small Biz Ahead. If you need any help or advice or tips to run your business, please visit us at SmallBizAhead.com or SBA.TheHartford.com. Again, my name is Gene Marks. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back with you next week with some other advice to help you run your business. Take care.
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