The ITC at SIUE’s EXPORT NOW series was a customized, action-oriented export training initiative that aims to put local businesses on the international map.EDWARDSVILLE - The southern Illinois region has long needed a customized, action-oriented export training initiative to put local businesses on the international map. Now, five regional businesses have benefited from such an opportunity, EXPORT NOW.

Presented by the Illinois SBDC International Trade Center (ITC) at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, in partnership with the Southwest Illinois Trade and Investment Council, LR International, and the Illinois District Export Council, with financial support from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, the three-month virtual series helped business representatives create a plan to expand their business internationally with guidance from industry experts.

“We feel our EXPORT NOW program met the goal of better positioning the participating companies for success in the global economy by helping them take a proactive and strategic approach to their selection of export markets,” said ITC Director Silvia Torres Bowman. “The Illinois SBDC ITC at SIUE looks forward to continuing to work with the first five EXPORT NOW graduates as they explore new international markets with us. We are proud of their accomplishments and look forward to the exciting opportunities ahead.”

Throughout three spring sessions, EXPORT NOW participants strategized the relationship between their company and the world, utilized industry knowledge to create a seamless international process, and created an export plan for the future of their company to be audited by industry veterans.

At least two of the participating businesses are taking the next active step in their export journey by preparing for a 2021 Virtual Trade Mission to South America slated for Sept. 20-Oct. 15.

“EXPORT NOW was a thorough program with insightful speakers and a clear roadmap for readiness to launch in new export markets,” shared mentor Sonat Birnecker Hart, president of Koval Distillery and member of the Illinois District Export Council (DEC). “Not only were participants’ individual journeys fruitful in developing thoughtful strategies for growth through export but also hearing the approaches of the other participants and their strategies added layers of information unmatched by other seminars addressing international trade.”

“It was an honor to collaborate with such a passionate group of international professionals in the EXPORT NOW program,” said presenter Jacqueline Meredith Grahn, principal at Trade Acceptance Group and EX-IM Bank’s Western Region Director. “At the same time, it was inspiring to oversee the dedication of the exporting companies to expand their international presence, undeterred by the unique challenges of the ongoing global pandemic.”

The following companies took part in EXPORT NOW’s inaugural series:

  • Little River Research & Design, a scientific equipment supplier, located in Carbondale
  • Special Mine Services, a mining industry equipment manufacturer, located in West Frankfort
  • My Scratch Offs, a woman and disabled veteran-owned small business specializing in promotional products, located in Swansea
  • Bit Brokers International, a family-owned industrial equipment supplier, located in Franklin County
  • Smart Controls, an electronics manufacturer. located in Fairview Heights

Paul Jarzombek, chief operating officer at LR International Inc. and member of the Illinois DEC, served as a facilitator and sponsor for the series and was instrumental in its success.

“The ITC at SIUE did a terrific job hosting the program and keeping it organized, along with providing participating companies access to valuable resources for their export journey,” he said. “The best part of the program is that it was not based on theory. It was rooted in experience by real-world exporters and service providers with decades of experience.”

Jarzombek noted the primary takeaways for participating companies included the development of a solid plan to move forward with exports and grow their international business, as well as the creation of long-lasting business relationships.

Marshall Girtman, international sales specialist at Special Mine Services, praised EXPORT NOW’s leadership panel and described participating in the program as inspiring, challenging, and rewarding.

“Perhaps the greatest takeaway from EXPORT NOW was the level of support from the program’s organizers, presenters, and mentors,” Girtman shared. “Rather than just presenting the material during the conference, everyone involved with EXPORT NOW continues to be a valuable resource for participating companies to grow their exports.”

“EXPORT NOW afforded me an educational basis for continuing to grow my export business while facilitating excellent partnership connections,” added Karen Tinsley-Sroka, founder and CEO of My Scratch Offs. “We are already in the process of launching two website localization projects with the help of the ITC at SIUE and EXPORT NOW. The program’s guidance will prove to be invaluable in our upcoming efforts.”

The Illinois SBDC ITC at SIUE plans to continue offering specialized programs on a regular basis. The next EXPORT NOW series is scheduled for spring 2022.

The Illinois SBDC International Trade Center at SIUE serves businesses in southern Illinois by providing individualized, no-cost export advising, identification of foreign buyers, agents, and/or distributors through trade leads, international market analysis, and more. The ITC is funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a service to the region’s entrepreneurial and business community.

As a key member of the Illinois SBDC Network, the ITC delivers these important services to its clients while supporting the goals and objectives of both the SIUE School of Business and the University at large.

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