Among the lessons the pandemic taught small business owners is the importance of building resiliency in your business plan. One way to achieve this is by expanding your customer base through exporting, and now is a great time to consider taking your business global. More than 95 percent of potential customers live outside the U.S., and businesses that sell to international customers grow faster, make more sales, and employ more people.
As the world's largest economy and one of the largest exporters and importers of goods and services, trade is critical to America's prosperity. Leading the way are small and medium-sized U.S. businesses who account for nearly 98 percent of the roughly 300,000 companies that export. In Georgia, small businesses make up nearly 90 percent of the state’s exporters, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Georgia is a great place for exporting your goods and services. The state boasts one of the world's busiest and most efficient passenger airports, two deep-water ports, and the most extensive surface transportation network in the country. In 2020, even during the height of the pandemic, Georgia ranked among the top ten exporting states in the country with Georgia merchandise exports reaching 215 unique countries and territories.
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides essential resources to help small businesses in Georgia reach the global marketplace. The SBA’s export loan programs can assist small businesses with the financing needed to sell your goods and services to international customers. SBA also supports small businesses with export technical assistance through partnerships and resource groups.
Here are six SBA programs to help you start your export journey:
1. Export Working Capital Loans
Export Working Capital loans allow small business owners to apply for loans in advance of finalizing an export sale or contract, giving exporters greater flexibility in negotiating export payment terms. These loans can be up to $5 million, and the turnaround time is usually five to 10 business days.
2. Export Express Loans
Export Express lenders can directly underwrite a loan without getting prior approval from the SBA, which allows you to get capital quickly. Loans are typically approved within 36 hours and can be up to $500,000.
3. 7a International Trade Loans
The International Trade Loan is designed to help small businesses enter and expand into international markets and, when adversely affected by import competition, make the investments necessary to better compete. The ITL offers a combination of fixed asset, working capital financing and debt refinancing with the SBA’s maximum guaranty— 90 percent— on the total loan amount.
4. State Trade Expansion Program
The SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) provides financial assistance to small businesses through awards to state governments. STEP has supported small business activities in 146 countries, with the top ten countries being Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico, China, France, Australia, Korea, UAE, and England. The Georgia Department of Economic Development launched Go Global Georgia in partnership with the SBA’s STEP program to provide reimbursement funding to eligible Georgia exporters for pre-approved export activities. Most companies are eligible for reimbursement of up to 50 percent of actual export costs, up to a maximum award of $6,000.
5. UGA Small Business Development Center international trade group
The UGA Small Business Development Center network has an international trade group that can assist you with entering and expanding exporting. They can help walk you through a transaction, identify opportunities, investigate trade financing options or resolve a particular trade issue. SBDC also works as a team with U.S. Export Assistance Center partner organizations to make sure you benefit from all of our state and federal resources.
6. U.S. Export Assistance Centers
In addition, SBA works closely with the U.S. Commercial Service and the U.S. Export-Import Bank to provide potential and existing exporters with a unified, one-stop approach to export expansion through 21 U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) nationwide, including centers in Atlanta and Savannah.
International trade can open up a world of opportunities for small business, and now is the perfect time to explore the benefits and merits of exporting. Exporting can increase the scope of your business making you more competitive domestically and help you increase your company’s overall sales and profits. To learn more details about how SBA can help you export your goods and services internationally, visit www.sba.gov/exporting.
Terri Denison is the district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration Georgia District. The SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses with resources to start, grow, expand or recover.