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Export roundtable discussion planned by trade center

The Illinois SBDC International Trade Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will continue its series of virtual roundtable discussions with its October session, “6 Key Actions for Exporting,” scheduled for 10 a.m.-noon Thursday, Oct. 29, and hosted via Zoom.

During this session, exporters will focus more specifically on six essential steps toward excelling in exporting, according to co-presenter Tom Dustman, international sales director at St. Louis-based Sunnen Products Company, a manufacturer that has been exporting deep hole drilling machines and tools for 80 years and has launched distributorships in South America, China and the Middle East.

“Each of these virtual roundtable programs is unique in terms of relevant content,” Dustman said. “Our next session will educate exporters on: 1) finetuning their marketing and business plan; 2) how to secure financing; 3) country-specific cultural issues; 4) how to find and vet a potential agent or distributor; 5) working with a capable freight forwarder and 6) how to gain support for exporting from a company’s executive leadership and board of directors.”

All businesses in the southern region are encouraged to participate. For details and registration, contact the Illinois SBDC ITC at

“I often hear stories of how hardworking business owners in our region continue struggling during this uncertain season,” said Silvia Torres Bowman, director of the center. “They may feel as if they’re functioning in a silo, wishing for a forum in which to discuss these challenges, bounce ideas off regional exporting peers and develop solutions to navigate it all. This virtual roundtable series welcomes their participation. Together, we can secure the necessary resources for exporting success.”

During the series’ first session in September, 15 active Southern Illinois businesses gathered remotely to interact and learn how to grow their sales through expanded international trade.

“The expertise shared during our first virtual roundtable session, paired with the meaningful shared dialogue and interaction between discussion leaders and participants, resulted in powerful connections forged among exporters across Southern Illinois,” said Torres Bowman. “Business owners who are just beginning to export their products asked questions of Southern Illinois-based company executives who have been successfully exporting for years. Experienced exporters shared techniques that have enabled their companies to thrive in the global marketplace. They also shared secrets to overcoming exporting challenges unique to those in our region.”

Marshall Girtman, shipping/receiving and international sales manager for Special Mine Services (SMS), participated in the initial exporting roundtable event. Girtman has been working with Torres Bowman since July, gaining expertise to expand SMS’ exporting beyond Canada and into Australia, Peru and Mexico. The West Frankfort-based company manufactures electrical connectors for mining and other industries.

“The Illinois SBDC ITC’s expertise and assistance has already proven invaluable to us,” said Girtman. “Silvia’s invitation for us to engage in these virtual roundtables has added to that value. It has increased our exporting knowledge base, equipping us to expand our global reach.”

The September discussion was moderated by Dustman, who emphasized Illinois’ robust exporting activity. “Illinois exports more than $60 billion annually,” he said. “Ninety percent of Illinois exporting businesses are small and mid-sized businesses. In 2019, Illinois-based companies shipped to 216 countries.”

Dustman encouraged participants to seek no-cost services from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) through the Illinois Global Network’s nine SBDC ITC offices and six offices of trade and investment worldwide.

“Being successful in exporting requires being successful in a lot of little things,” Dustman explained. “Dare to grow your business exports. Forty percent of our products are exported. The trend I see is significant growth. It should excite and assure us that there’s true potential in international exports.”

Craig Eversmann, president of Collinsville-based MSSC, LLC, an industrial marking, coding and stenciling manufacturer, shared his experiences and successes in growing his firm’s exports during the September roundtable session. For 20 years, Eversmann’s firm has been selling via independent distributors located in strategic industrial markets such as Santiago, Chile and Lima, Peru. Eversmann regularly shares his expertise in areas such as how to establish independent distribution channels and how to vet potential distributors.

“The Illinois SBDC International Trade Center was instrumental in assisting us in establishing relationships with existing and potential distributors in these countries and others,” said Eversmann, who also serves as board president of the Southwest Illinois Trade and Investment Council, a regional organization providing resources and opportunities to local companies seeking to export. “The ITC helped us host product websites in the countries where we do business. The ITC also assisted us in navigating the product regulatory requirements. If you’re getting into exporting or want to expand your exporting business, resources like this are essential. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned with manufacturers that are just beginning exporting or growing their exporting.”

According to Torres Bowman, ITC support includes, but is not limited to:

– Evaluation of export readiness
– International business planning
– Export regulations
– International trade leads
– Export finance
– Market research
– Participation in virtual and in-person trade mission and international industry shows
– Training courses/seminars/workshops
– Access to federal funding through multiple programs such as the Illinois’ State Trade and Export Promotion (ISTEP) and the newly available CARES Act

The Virtual Roundtable Series is funded thanks to The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide fast and direct economic assistance for Illinois small businesses and to preserve jobs for American industries.

For more information about how to do business globally, how to gain immediate access to the ISTEP and CARES Act funds and to learn how other no-cost services may help start or grow your exporting business, contact the ITC by email or phone at (618) 650-3851, or visit

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