The world marketplace often seems out of reach to small businesses. Accessing foreign markets for the export of goods and services is sometimes not even on the radar for some companies and some determine that it is unattainable because the resources are not there to invest in developing the opportunities. Recognizing this, the U.S. Small Business Administration launched the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Program pilot export initiative to make matching-fund awards to states to assist small businesses enter and succeed in the international marketplace. Since the initial round of founding in FY 2011, the program has awarded cooperative agreement awards with the states totaling $84.4 million. The average award to the states for FY 2015 was $435,000. Each of the 50 states, District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa are eligible to compete for an award and must determine how to use the funds for eligible small business concerns. An “eligible small business concern” (“STEP client”) means a small business concern that (A) has been in business for at least 1-year; (B) is operating profitably (based on operations in the United States); (C) has demonstrated understanding of the costs associated with exporting and doing business with foreign purchasers, including the costs of freight forwarding, customs brokers, packing and shipping; and (D) has a strategic plan in effect for exporting. Examples of the typical projects and awards to STEP clients include funding for foreign trade missions, advance or reimbursement of costs to participate in international trade shows, translation services (including website translations), export training registration fees, and preparation of international marketing materials. A potential STEP client should contact the individual state service provider for more information about eligibility for a STEP award in that jurisdiction.
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SBA “STEP” Program opens up borders for U.S. small businesses
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