Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of entrepreneurs for answers to the most pressing questions facing small business owners. Today, on the eve of the election, we delve into some of the hot-button political issues that affect business owners. The responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council.
Q: When is the right time to take your business global and what advice do you have for firms searching for import/export partners?
Eric Corl, president and co-founder of Fundable LLC in Columbus, Ohio:
We have already tapped into foreign markets at Fundable, and we will continue to explore them further in the future. A good portion of our project backers hail from other countries, which is very telling of the global efficacy of crowdfunding. I believe the global marketplace represents a large opportunity for start-ups in certain industries. As the global economy becomes increasingly more fluid, global markets will become a better-utilized growth strategy for startups.
In our experience, it is prudent for entrepreneurs to think of their markets in a global sense at the early growth stage so they can cater to the demands of their foreign customers. Most businesses can utilize cost per click search-engine marketing to begin testing international demand for their products.
Christopher G. Hurn, CEO and co-founder of Mercantile Capital Corporation in Orlando, Florida:
My main company’s services are commercial loans for small business owners purchasing commercial property. That is exclusive to the U.S., so I haven’t tapped foreign markets with that company. My other primary business (Kennedy’s All-American Barber Club) is an upscale barbershop franchise, and we are certainly considered expanding into foreign markets with our concept.
Because we are still a young franchise, we are only interested in expanding to meet demand from overseas. In other words, we aren’t actively seeking certain countries now; we’re waiting for interested parties to approach us first.
My small business clients that export/import tell me that before they did this (export and/or import) they made sure their business systems and procedures had been adequately tested and stressed domestically first. Expanding overseas before the kinks are worked out can be the kiss of death for a young company. This is one of the reasons why my young franchise company is taking overseas expansion much slower than domestic expansion.
Doug Bend, founder and small business/startup attorney at Bend Law Group, PC in San Francisco, California:
It can be extremely difficult and often cost prohibitive for a start-up to navigate laws in foreign markets.
Startups first need to make smart, realistic choices of their best international targets -- and then work with experienced legal counsel to not only navigate the trade laws, but to also make sure that their brand will not violate any trademark laws in those countries.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
OSB election guide: Explaining President Obama and Mitt Romney’s positions on the most important political issues facing entrepreneurs and small business owners.