The Washington State Small Business Development Center (WSBDC) has perfected the art of building productive partnerships to help Washington companies, notably rural ones, achieve export success.
WSBDC International Trade Specialist Vern Jenkins and Grant County Economic Development Council Certified Business Advisor Allan Peterson leveraged contacts at the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), and Grant County’s Sister City relationship with Gunpo City, South Korea to arrange for Eastern Washington businesses to visit South Korea and meet with interested importers of U.S. products and services.
That trade mission to Seoul took place in April, 2016. Jenkins and Peterson effectively leveraged another important partner, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), to recruit companies to join the mission. SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) helped finance a portion of the travel for Washington small businesses.
Five Washington small businesses participated in the 2016 mission, four supported by STEP funds. The success and positive feedback from participants led to a second mission in June, 2017, this time making stops in Seoul and Tokyo, Japan. The WSBDC engaged the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) as a partner for matchmaking in the Tokyo market. Nine Washington small businesses participated in 2017, including three that participated in the 2016 mission. Eight of the nine participants were STEP funded.
Here are some small business exporting success stories resulting from those two missions:
Cascade Organic Flour of Royal City, WA was one of the companies that participated in both missions. Thanks in large part to their global market expansion, Cascade has tripled grinding capacity for its Organic flour products and hired six new employees. This is significant job growth in a small rural town of about 2,200.
Eckenberg Farms of Mattawa, WA, a company that grows and bales hay, participated in the 2017 mission where they sold the entire inventory of their 2017 harvest, nearly $25 million. They also picked up two new potential customers in Japan, which contributed to their opening of an extension office in Richland, WA and hiring an additional six employees.
Fresh Nature Foods, home of the Fresh Picked Chickpea in Spokane, was a 2016 participant. Fresh Nature Foods began as a small family farm dating back four generations. The 2016 mission, their first overseas trade endeavor, helped lay the foundation for active global market participation. They have since gone to Hong Kong on their own, with support from STEP funds, and are growing sales into China and the Netherlands.
Glacia Nova, an Auburn company that bottles natural water from Mt. Rainier Glacier participated in the 2017 and is currently exploring options for SBA financing to support export working capital to support sales in the Asian markets of Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and China.
Excellent market intelligence from the WSBDC and Washington Department of Agriculture, and STEP funding from SBA, delivered locally by the Washington State Department of Commerce, have provided great stepping stones for area small businesses to find success in the global marketplace.
The WSBDC continues to work with these clients and to explore additional opportunities for STEP funding and SBA export financing as they make plans for another Trade Mission in 2018.
Effective leveraging of partnerships and dedicated commitment to their clients has made the Washington SBDC a stellar example of the role SBDCs can play in helping U.S. small businesses achieve global market success!
Visit the SBDC’s site to learn more about their resources for small businesses.
Learn more about the State Trade Expansion Program at the website.
SBA has a great site where you can find out more about export financing options. Click on the links for more information about the WSBDC trade missions (link is external), and enjoy the trade mission video (link is external).
By Peter J. Cazamias, Associate Administrator for Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade.