As many business owners know, the prospect of entering into new markets is both enticing and daunting. In fact, the most common question we hear is: where do I start?
Ahead of our Exporting Webinar Series this July, we sat down with the series facilitator Alpana Sharma, our Business Advisor at Women’s Enterprise Centre, who has been through the exporting process more than a few times! Alpana has operated her own import business successfully for several years and is a Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) professional.
We asked Alpana to shine some light on exporting and what she’s learned over the years.
Q.1 How long have you been in exporting?
I have been in international trade for more than a decade, and I’m always learning!
My current business supports new exporters/importers and existing exporters/importers who are looking into expanding to a new market. My focus regions are Asia and the US. We are now also exporting services.
So many women entrepreneurs are driven by a passion to solve a problem, so it’s so rewarding to help my clients connect with new people who can benefit from their product or service. And I find it fascinating to learn about new markets and solve the puzzle of how to connect with them.
Q2. What do you wish someone had told you about exporting before you started out?
I wish I knew about the support available to exporters and importers. As a newcomer to BC, initially I did not tap into helpful programs and services and ended up wasting time and some money.
My advice to new exporters is to research export resources. You’ll be surprised at how many of them are FREE!!
Q3. What is the biggest misconception about exporting?
Many small business owners think that exporting is something that only big businesses do. This is the biggest misconception.
I have worked with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who are successful exporters. They have succeeded because they planned and prepared well before launching into new markets.
Your exporting journey can start with a simple eCommerce site, so many of my clients are interested to learn that selling online outside of BC can be a great way to test new markets and get your feet wet in the exporting world.
Q4. Has the pandemic changed exporting?
Yes. Things are getting better slowly but the pandemic disrupted supply chains which resulted in delays and increased costs. Canadian SMEs are resilient and many clients turned to eCommerce to make the best of such a situation.
I want to share the example of a client who has transitioned to selling on Amazon.com. She has found it easier to enter the US market by selling through this online marketplace.
Q5. How can someone get started?
Don’t go it alone! There are many wonderful resources to support BC women exporters including Women’s Enterprise Centre of BC, Small Business BC, Export Navigator, the Trade Commissioner Service, the Trade Accelerator Program and Export Development Canada, and we all work together to connect you with the right resource for your export readiness and experience level.
I also recommend you talk to people who are selling outside of BC and ask them about their experiences. How did they decide where to export? What are the pros and cons? What were the nasty surprises that you can avoid? What has been a helpful resource or tool that made the process easier? Most people are happy to share their experiences!
Women’s Enterprise Centre Summer Exporting Series webinars begin July 15, 2021. This series of three webinars give you a chance to hear from other women entrepreneurs’ about their exporting journeys and what they have learned from these experiences.