Selling in foreign markets may feel like a colossal task for a small business. But more small companies see the value in trying.
A new survey of 500 small-business owners by the National Small Business Association and the Small Business Exporters Association finds that 64 percent of businesses have sold to foreign customers, compared with 52 percent when the survey was last conducted in 2010. Among those business owners who have never exported, 63 percent now say they would be interested in doing so, compared with 43 percent in 2010.
The reason for the increased interest in exporting: It’s becoming easier for small businesses to get the resources they need to sell internationally—and many see foreign markets and customers as an untapped opportunity. “Not only are small businesses seeing growing opportunities available to them via exporting, they increasingly view their goods and/or services as valuable in a global marketplace,” said NSBA Chair David Ickert, in a news release.
Despite the desire to export, the challenge for many business owners is getting started and learning all the rules. The survey points out that a typical small business spends about 8.4 percent of its annual operating revenue preparing to export. Moreover, a small business owner with limited resources must decide whether the cost and time involved will ultimately be worth the effort--and there's the risk that exporting can take away from domestic sales.
Once a small exporter gets going, however, there's financing available. The Small Business Administration’s Export Working Capital Program allows small exporters to finance the direct costs of fulfilling foreign purchase orders, and the SBA's International Trade Loan Program has term financing—12 months to 25 years--for exporters looking to acquire equipment or increase plant capacity to expand into new international markets or increase sales to existing overseas markets.