Import and Export Guides


6 Steps to Begin Export

Benefits of exporting


Did you know that nearly 96% of consumers of most markets live outside the U.S.? And that is excluding the two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power who live in foreign countries. Small business owners need the intel to understand the needs of their trades. Here’s how you can work with the Small Business Administration to fulfill your trade needs.


  1. Get counseling


  1. Find buyers


  1. Get funding


Get counseling and training


Expanding your market may be easier than you think. With counseling from mentors and proper training in using modern technology, even small businesses can get into exporting to reach markets across the world.


U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs)


Through the U.S. Export Assistance Centers, you can explore the exporting process at centers throughout the U.S. Small- and medium-sized businesses can get assistance in export through these centers as they are all staffed with experienced professionals from public and private organizations.


Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)


Hosted by leading universities and state economic development agencies, and funded through a partnership with SBA, SBDCs are also helpful when looking for guidance in export. The centers provide free consultancy regarding businesses and low-cost training services.


International Trade Hotline


Customer assistance for any small business facing issues in accessing international markets is provided by the SBA’s Office of International Trade. The office advertises the small business benefits of U.S trade agreements. Moreover, it aids in protecting the rights of small businesses under the mentioned agreements.

You can contact the trade hotline for assistance or inquiry at 800-827-5722 from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm ET.  You can also contact an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter at 855-440-4960 during the same timings via video-chat.


Find International Buyers


Foreign trade and export may seem like a far-fetched goal to many small business owners, but in reality, it is just a few steps away. This distance can easily be covered by taking advantage of the federal programs that are designed specially to build bridges to reach new markets.


State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)


The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant funds international business development activities that help small businesses expand internationally. Introducing the export of goods to a small business requires a substantial amount of money which this grant nullifies. This grant offers companies a maximum amount of $10, 000 a year to assist in expanding their business.

STEP provides small businesses the opportunity to expand with financial support and allows business development activities to take place. These activities include:


  • Participating in foreign trade missions and shows.
  • Attending international business meetings.
  • Researching new markets.
  • Training in the fundamentals of export.
  • Guidance on how to develop their websites to attract foreign buyers.
  • Designing and modifying international marketing products and campaigns.
  • Updating materials to attract new markets.

STEP services are available in most of the states. You can find out if your state receives STEP support and then contact your local office for further assistance in exporting your products and services.


Export Finance Programs


Small businesses almost always need financial assistance or loans to start their export. Your commercial bank should be the first place to look into when considering taking out a loan. However, loans for exporters are considers as a big risk by a majority of the banks in the U.S. so getting approval for loans is difficult.

Small businesses need loans to cover the expanses of day-to-day operations, advance orders, refinancing existing debts etc.  SBA has created loan programs which guarantee up to ninety percent on export loans.

Contact your local SBA Export Finance Manager or the Office of International Trade to learn more about the SBA export loan programs. Here is a list of the participating export lenders at SBA.


Export Express Loan


This is the simplest loan product provided by the SBA where the lender does not need to wait for approval from SBA to wire the money. Export Express lenders can underwire an amount directly to the exporter so they can receive the capital quickly. The typical waiting period for approval is round 36 hours and the maximum amount is up to $500, 000.

Export express loan is a good option for smaller businesses as it does not require a lot of information to be issued. The requirements of the approval include the business being in operation for a minimum of full 12 months and the ability to demonstrate that the received loan will be used to support export activities.


Export Working Capital loan


Export Working Capital loans provide U.S. businesses the liquidity that they require to expand their business overseas by facilitating exports of goods and services. Small businesses can apply for this loan before finalizing an export transaction so that they can negotiate the export payment terms flexibly.  

This loan is applicable to businesses that can generate export sales and need liquidity in assets to support the sales. The applications are reviewed by the lenders and submitted to the U.S Export Assistance Center which supports the exporters region. The maximum loan amount is $5 million and has a turnaround time of about five to ten business days.


International Trade Loan


International Trade loans allow small businesses to invest and compete with other importers in international markets. These loans provide long-term financial assistance to expanding businesses or businesses that need to be modernized to compete in the foreign market. International Trade loans can be used for fixed assets, working capital financing and debt refinancing. SBA provides a maximum guaranty of ninety percent and the maximum total financing loan is $5 million.


Additional Trade Resources


Check out these additional resources for more information on international trade.




  1. SBA Office of International Trade


  1. Full List of Government Trade Agencies


  1. U.S. Customs and Border Protection


  1. Getting to Global Export Accelerator


Follow the links below to get detailed guides on import and export.


 Sample Outline for an Export Plan


 A Basic Guide to Exporting​


 Exporting/Importing Specific Products


 How to Expand Your Business Globally


 Trade Process


Indonesia Import/Export Guide


 Export Planning Guide


 How to Start an Export Business


 Guide to Importing UK


Guide to Exporting UK


 Handbook Import and Exporting to Kenya


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