What services are available specifically for small businesses that want to export?

Most of the services described in this online guide can be used by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In fact, new-to-market or new-to-exporting SMEs in the RE&EE sector are highly encouraged to leverage these resources to get connected with foreign buyers. Growing demand for such technologies and services around the world means that no matter how large or small your company, someone needs your product.

Certain resources—also featured elsewhere in this online guide— from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and other agencies have been designed specifically for U.S. SMEs and small RE&EE projects. Generally, small businesses are manufacturers with 500 or fewer employees and non-manufacturers with less than $7 million in average annual receipts. For more information about size standards, please refer to the Guide to SBA’s Definitions of Small Business.

Counseling and Assistance

Business experts at SBA can help you with exporting or other areas of entrepreneurship to help your business start and grow. SBA offices serve every state and territory. In addition more than 850 Small Business Development Centers, 380 chapters of SCORE (an SBA resource partner with more than 13,000 volunteer counselors and trainers to small businesses), and 110 Women’s Business Centers are available. The SBA also has a senior international trade and finance specialist co-located with U.S. Commercial Service professionals in 18 of the 109 U.S. Export Assistance Centers.

Financing

The following finance programs are available to U.S. SMEs:

  • Export Working Capital Program (SBA) – provides up to $5 million in short-term, transaction-specific working capital loan guarantees to U.S. small business exporters. Uses of this financing include pre-export financing of labor and materials and post-shipment financing of the accounts receivable generated from transaction-specific overseas sales.
  • Export Express (SBA) – provides small businesses that have exporting potential, but that need funds to cover the initial costs of entering an export market with up to $500,000 in export development financing to buy or produce goods or to provide services for export.
  • International Trade Loan Program (SBA) – provides U.S. businesses that are preparing to engage in or already engaged in international trade, or that are adversely affected by competition from imports with up to $5.25 million in financing to upgrade equipment and facilities.
  • Small and Medium Enterprise Financing (Overseas Private Investment Corporation) – provides long term arrangements for funding large U.S. investments that facilitate U.S. exports and technologies in both developed and emerging markets, assessed either on project cash flows or corporate balance sheet risk.
  • Solar Express (Export-Import Bank of the United States [Ex-Im Bank]): A new initiative to meet the increased demand for financing of small solar-power transactions. This program provides streamlined financing (both direct loans and guarantees) to small solar-power producers that meet the Ex-Im Bank’s credit standards and are seeking project financing between $3 million and $10 million. If all the requirements of the program are fully met, Ex-Im Bank can process the Solar Express application in as little as 60 days.

For SMEs that are new to exporting, more information can also be found in Trade Finance Guide: A Quick Reference for U.S. Exporters, available in PDF format.

Online matchmaking

Trade Mission Online: SBA’s searchable database is designed to facilitate international small business sales, franchising, joint ventures, and licensing. Trade Mission Online is used by small businesses that wish to export their products or that seek U.S. partners or suppliers for trade-related activities. SBA also uses the database to recruit and provide time-sensitive trade promotion information to registered companies.

Other online resources

SBA Export Library: provides information and resources to assist small businesses entering and competing in the global marketplace. It includes videos, online courses, and podcasts.

RE&EE exports in action

The example below illustrates how U.S. government services can help U.S. RE&EE companies enhance their ability to export.

  • Southwest Windpower, located in Flagstaff, Arizona, used SBA’s Export Working Capital to expand its distribution of battery charged small wind generators to more than 120 countries. Nearly half of its sales in 2008 came from international markets. Realizing the significant growth opportunities overseas, the company is doubling its export efforts.

Where do I start?

To learn more and to apply for these programs, please click on the links for each description.

To receive counseling on how the programs listed here can help you achieve your international sales goals, please contact your local U.S. Commercial Service international trade specialist.

You are in the “Resources for Small Business” section.

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