Small Business Development Center expands with international trade focus
PRESCOTT - International trade is a big market to tap, even by small businesses.
"If you are selling (only) to the U.S., you are selling to 4 percent of the world," said Rick Marcum, director of the off-site Small Business Development Center at Yavapai College in Prescott. "We are trying to get businesses to see the other 96 percent."
The SBDC is extending its focus by helping small businesses, which have fewer than 200 employees, find export markets for the their products and services, Marcum said.
He said the federal government through the Small Business Administration is making a push to involve small businesses in exporting, adding, "the statistics on it are self-evident."
Most of the clients at SBDC do business strictly in Yavapai County, Marcum said. As of Wednesday, 235 people have sought expertise from the SBDC this year.
To that end, Marcum said he earned a federal certificate in international trade by taking an online course through the SBA. He already brings to his job 30 years of experience in international trade, plus a master's degree in international management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale.
"We are trying our best to target the rest of the world, not just south of the border," Marcum said.
He said international trade takes more than selling merchandise on eBay to customers outside the United States.
By the same token, aspiring exporters should not go it alone, Marcum said. He recommends the indirect approach by hiring an export management or trading company as an intermediary in a foreign country.
Intermediaries handle tasks such as tariffs, freight forwarding (shipping products) and helping their clients through hoops, Marcum said.
Marcum said exporters should consult commercial attaches at American embassies and seek local partners if they plan on manufacturing in the countries.
But before exporting, small businesses need to undergo an export readiness assessment, Marcum said.
He said the first question to ask is whether management supports a plan to export goods or services. The second step involves researching what countries would be the best targets for exporting, Marcum said.
Once the businessperson has identified a target market, he or she needs to research tariffs and cultural issues, Marcum said.
Marcum also recommends making arrangements with an intermediary and the U.S. embassy before visiting a targeted country.
Marcum said he has advised Ambaya Martin, a Mexico City native who owns Ambaya Gold, a Sedona-based business that markets vitamin supplements.
"A lot of countries are very interested in our products," said Martin, who is self-employed but has three independent contractors.
Martin said SBDC can help with a marketing program that is more professional. She added that she wants to seek an SBA loan and learn regulations in other countries.
SBDC in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce plans an "export university" workshop Sept. 20 at the Yavapai College campus here, Marcum said.
For more information about exporting, contact SBDC at 771-4801.