research you’ve done, the better prepared you are; the better financed you are, the more successful you’ll be.”
The Overseas Private Investment Corp. (www.opic.gov) is a government agency providing fee-based services to American businesses expanding overseas. Among their products are political risk insurance, project financing, and investment funding.
The U.S. Commercial Service South Africa (www.buyusa.gov/southafrica/en) is a U.S. government trade promotion agency set up to help U.S.-based firms interested in doing business in South Africa. It provides services in the following categories: market research, counseling and advocacy, finding international partners, and trade events.
The SBA’s Guide to Exporting (www.sba.gov/ oit/info/Guide-To-Exporting) addresses many of the issues entrepreneurs will face when doing business abroad.
The U.S. Commercial Service (www.buyusa .gov) offers a network of some 1,800 trade professionals in 105 U.S. cities and 151 U.S. embassies, consulates, and trade centers to help companies navigate the international trade process.
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (www.exim.gov) is the official export credit agency of the U.S. Its job is to help finance the export of U.S. goods and services to international markets.
The International Trade Administration (www.trade.gov), maintains a list of trade missions. Organized by foreign governments or private organizations, these excursions are designed to assist exporters by arranging meetings with potential buyers.
Doing Business Overseas
- Determine whether this is the kind of business you want to get into. A good start would be to read Exporting, Importing, and Beyond: How to ‘Go Global’ With Your Small Business by Lawrence W. Tuller (Adams Media Corp.; $10.95). This book walks the reader through the process and even offers advice on topics such as financing and U.S. Customs requirements.
- Identify the markets you want to explore. Contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center to talk to an export specialist. For a list of offices, visit www.export.gov/comm_svc/eac.html.
- Develop a business strategy. Keep in mind that you want to identify representatives on the import side. The Federation of International Trade Associations offers a directory of export management companies at www.fita.org/emc.html.
- Determine how much money you’ll need, and obtain the financing. One resource to tap is the SBA’s Export Working Capital program (www.sba.gov/financing/loanprog/wcp.html). This program encourages lenders to offer export working capital loans by guaranteeing repayment of up to $1 million, or 90% of a loan amount, whichever is less.
- Arrange for the manufacture and transportation of the goods being sold. Keep in mind that shipping internationally requires proper documentation if the goods are to arrive safely and on time. Most seaports and airports will have a directory of trade service companies, including shipping companies, serving those ports.
- Formalize relationships with buyers/associates. It’s advisable to get legal assistance when negotiating trade contracts. International trade attorneys at the Export Legal Assistance Network (http://fita.org/elan) offer free initial consultations to small businesses interested in starting export operations.
- Establish an online presence. The Internet is one of the easiest ways to reach the global marketplace. Virtually every major Internet service provider is set up to accommodate commercial Web hosting.