For small business growth, consider the international market

As a small business owner, you may have never considered expanding globally. The process of tackling new international markets may seem too daunting, requiring specialized knowledge and high-level contacts only the big players have access to. But this isn’t always the case.


There are hundreds of examples of successful businesses starting small before going global. Apple started in that famous garage and Starbucks began as one of many small coffee shops in Seattle. Or, take the brother-and-sister team of Sabrina Finlay and Ryan Shaffer, co-founders of Otabo, a company that specializes in manufacturing shoes for established brands and startups. Both began working in their father’s factory, doing everything from mopping the floors to cleaning workstations. Today their Minneapolis-based business has an impressive international reach, with 50 factories around the globe and clients from Botswana to Lebanon.

There is no reason your small businesses can’t boldly go forth into the international arena. To get your entrepreneurial spirit thinking globally, here are five strategies you should know.


1. Get specific about why you want international expansion

Being clear on why you want to extend your business overseas will play a big part in determining your strategy. Is the U.S. market too small for your company? Are you looking for a less competitive market in which to get a foothold? Your reasons will impact nearly every aspect of your international expansion plan.


2. Study the culture

Expanding overseas may require intense research into the countries you want to target. You will want to know how each new culture will affect your business. Studying up on each nation’s values and traditions can help you determine whether your product or service will appeal to its culture, and how best to invest in marketing campaigns to educate potential consumers.


3. Research the logistics

No matter where your business takes you, infrastructure will be a major factor. You will have to gather intel on logistical issues such as transportation, distribution networks, manufacturing facilities, and even the local work ethic. Doing business overseas requires a close knowledge of local peculiarities, a detailed plan, and the flexibility to adapt.


4. Make sure you get paid

Managing your cash flow, monitoring exchange rates and other matters pertaining to financing will be a big part of doing business overseas. This can be complicated, but there are agencies and government services, such as the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) , that can help.


5. Consolidate services into one business model

As you develop new markets, you will have to make many adjustments. While flexibility is key, you do need to retain a consistent way of doing business that applies to all your services; otherwise you will face the problems that arise when the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

To learn more, explore this curated roundup of federal, multilateral and state links of global-information business resources and best practices.

It takes daring and charisma to run your own business. Not to mention financial investment and your time and focus. But if you’re already a successful small business owner, and the entrepreneurial spirit still gets you fired up, you may be ready to make the leap into the international market. 


Interested in taking your business global? Find help and insights at

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