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International Trade Center continues creating connections for Southern Illinois businesses

An award-winning BBQ sauce, innovative motorcycle parts and components, industrial paint and specialty markers, and touch screen purses that were designed as a way for women and girls alike to safely, securely and fashionably carry their phones are a few of the products from southern Illinois that could soon be in hot demand outside U.S. borders. That’s because the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Illinois SBDC International Trade Center (ITC) has continued its customized, action-oriented export training initiative to put regional businesses on the international map.  

A five-week virtual series entitled EXPORT NOW 2022 and presented by the ITC in partnership with the Southwest Illinois Trade and Investment Council and CARES Act funding, benefited four regional companies who attended the training this fall.  

“We were proud and honored to work with such a passionate and dedicated group of professionals who gave their best during these five weeks,” said Silvia Torres Bowman, director of the Illinois SBDC ITC at SIUE. “The Illinois SBDC ITC at SIUE looks forward to continuing to work with our newest EXPORT NOW graduates as we discover more markets together through exports.”

A highlight of this year’s program included the involvement of two women-owned businesses.

“As the founder of a nonprofit that educates women on going global, I was thrilled to see two women-owned businesses participate in the EXPORT NOW program,” said program presenter and mentor Laurel Delaney, president of Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global®. “The Illinois SBDC ITC at SIUE has proven that women business owners can not only thrive but also prosper in the export marketplace.”

“EXPORT NOW 2022 provided the content, context, and connections necessary to propel my business forward as we begin the journey to exporting our Illinois-made barbecue sauce and Magic Dust,” said president of 17th Street BBQ Amy Mills. “Each speaker was dynamic and offered a deep understanding and wide experience in the exporting world. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in EXPORT NOW 2022 and would encourage anyone interested in learning more about exporting to attend this program.”

“Attending this seminar was worth every minute,” said Tami Lange, owner of Save the Girls. “Within four weeks of completing the program, I was able to land a huge account in Australia. I would highly recommend any business owner interested in building an international business to attend this program or at least become involved in the international trade community.”

The other two business participants were Magura USA Corp., an Olney-based distributor of motorcycle, bicycle, and industrial parts and accessories worldwide and U-Mark, a Belleville-based manufacturer of industrial paint and ink markers, stenciling inks and marking products. 

The series helped participants strategize the relationship between their company and the world, utilize industry knowledge to create a seamless international process, and create an export plan for the future of their company that was reviewed by industry veterans.

The virtual program covered topics ranging from the export process, logistics, documentation, compliance, website globalization, legal issues, banking and digital transactions. In addition, two award-winning exporters shared their personal journeys with the participants. 

“Participants for this event were well versed in what they wanted to happen and were open to a wide variety of ideas that encompassed their specific markets,” said Skip Wilford, director of OEM Business Development at Hangsterfer’s Laboratories, Inc., who served as one of the judges for the program. “I was impressed at the level of preparation and innovation that was present with all participants. This event was a goldmine of information for those who participated.” 

Two of the presenters at EXPORT NOW 2022 were impressed with the participants and the program itself in all that it has to offer.  

“As an economic developer, I know the important role exporting can play in a business’ profitability, and the positive impact it has on the economic growth of a region,” said Edie Koch, executive director or Monroe County Economic Development Corporation and executive member of the Southwest Illinois Trade and Investment Council. “Export NOW 2022 provides the tools businesses need to become more successful in their exporting endeavors.”

“A plethora of information and knowledge was shared not only with the fortunate participants, but the enthusiastic mentors, presenters, and judges were clearly gaining insight as well being very involved with each other’s presentations helping to correlate all the topics,” added Bobby Wondolowski, president of the Southwest Illinois Trade and Investment Council and sales manager at K-PRO U.S., LP. “I was motivated by the experience. It was sensational to see the growth of each participant’s company in a short amount of time. I am excited to see just how far they will go.”

Thanks to CARES funding, these four southern Illinois businesses made priceless connections with outstanding presenters, exceptional judges and first-rate mentors. EXPORT NOW 2022 was another example of what the Illinois SBDC ITC at SIUE, its partner network and community in general consistently spearhead and lead in support of small businesses. 

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.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story also appears in the December 2022 print edition of the Illinois Business Journal.)

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