Excellence in exporting

LIHUE — Learning to export your product or service is more about running a solid business plan than it is about learning new ways of doing business.

That is why the Hawaii Export Pacific Council thought carefully about naming its new accelerator program, “The Business Of Exporting.” HPEC is seeking 15 exporters, including experienced firms and ready-to-export companies, to educate them on building sustainable profit centers.

“There is exporting and there is business, and in the end it’s about your business and not about exporting,” said HPEC Chairman Michael Sacharski. “You need to know where exporting best fits your company’s objectives and operations.”

Exports from Hawaii contribute $8.4 billion to the state economy, which is why the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, is a partner with the program using general funds. It is part of its goal to meet President Barack Obama’s 2010 Export Initiative target of doubling state exports in five years, with more funds from the State Trade and Export Promotion program of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

According to Census data, the top Hawaii exports in 2013 were bottled water with over $20 million in sales. Painting and artwork came in second with over $16 million, followed by papaya fruit, nuts and seeds, shrimp and prawns, and coffee.

Australia is Hawaii’s biggest importer, followed by South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, the U.K., China, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands.

DBEDT Economic Development Specialist Jamie Lum said the HPEC partnership is exciting for its work to ensure a company is ready to export, or to maximize profits or find other markets when they are already exporting, as a product manufacturer or service provider.

“There is a whole new market with 95 percent of consumers outside the United States with a lot of potential customers out there,” Lum said. “Exporting is certainly a way to grow but you have to make sure the business is solid, as exporting brings additional pressures to a business.”

Each participant receives a $1,200 exporter accelerator grant to apply as a trade show entry at the end of the program or similar event. This DBEDT incentive may also be used to pursue some other opportunity to get into a particular market, such as traveling to meet with prospective distributors or buyers, Lum said.

“This program offers a deeper examination of companies and we were very excited when Mr. Sacharski and the HPEC board came to us with this idea,” Lum said.

Export seminars tend to be one-day events with a focus on getting a product or service into an overseas market. This event is different, he added, as a program that starts with a focus on business fundamentals and putting a company on a sound platform before thinking about expanding into foreign markets.

“We are looking for variety,” he said. “We hope to end up with a mix of large and small companies, with some just starting to look at exporting and some of them ready to export. I think that mix would be beneficial.”

This program is open to all Hawaii-based companies on all islands. Participants should expect to commit to a nine-month program with more than 100 hours of coursework with five large group training meetings in the first seven months and five smaller focus groups to follow.

There are 31 professionals in the nonprofit HPEC.

“Every presentation on a topic of this project is something that people are not seeing in the mainstream discussion,” Sacharski said. “It will be so unlike what people expect and should inspire and motivate them.”

The benefit of participating is an estimated $150,000 worth of consulting services and coursework. It will help each applicant develop a prospectus to gain access to capital loans or investment. It is possible that by applying this combined experience and insight, applicants could save up to $1 million by avoiding potential losses and gains from good planning.

Exporters need to consider how they reach customers, distributors, retailers, or direct to end users. Each present different strategies, costs and stress points on a company, Sacharski said.

The basic requirement is that the company has shown a profit in one of the past three years. The rest of the eligibility criteria can be found on the online application at www.hawaiiexportsupport.com. Apply by Oct. 3.

With more than 30 years experience with doing business in China, Sacharski said that not every company should be exporting. Some may achieve 5 percent of revenue from exports and should stay at that level. Others may find that inefficiencies are costing them millions in growth.

Companies old and new have their own kind of challenges and the course explores those questions to aid in making critical decisions about the future of the business. The course also presents global business challenges to consider when preparing exporting goals.

Instead of a one-day event, the nine-month program will have participants spending a minimum of 100 hours on research, meetings and consultants. It is also designed for the working manager to ensure they have time for their company, and they will create an export plan to be implemented by the end of the program.

A committee will select and inform the participants by Oct. 6. Orientations start the following week with the first presentation set for Oct. 23. The program will break from November through January.

For information contact Jamie Lum at jlum@dbedt.hawaii.gov or phone (808) 587-2753.

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