Utah Receives $500,000 in Grant Money to Help Businesses Export to New Markets

Pete CodellaNews

The Small Business Administration (SBA) awarded Utah $500,000 to help small businesses in Utah begin exporting, or to help them expand their export market. The State of Utah will provide an additional $166,667, for a total of $666,667 to be used in awarding State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grants to Utah businesses.

This award comes weeks before Governor Gary R. Herbert presents the first-of-its-kind Utah Global Forum, where companies can listen to and interact with professionals who are already successful in international marketplaces that other Utah businesses may want to reach. Representatives from STEP will be at the forum for business leaders to speak with about how to qualify and apply to receive a STEP grant.

Doodlebug Design Inc. is a Utah company that successfully used a STEP Grant earlier this year. Doodlebug is known for its bright colors and cute icons as a manufacturer of photo albums, cards, paper, glitter, buttons, ribbon, stickers, twine and other scrapbooking accessories. Cynthea and Andy Sandoval founded Doodlebug Design in 2000 and produce many of their products in Utah. Many of their distributors and retailers are in the U.S., but they are seeing significant increases in international business with the help of the STEP Grant.

Cynthea Sandoval, who is also the president and creative director of Doodlebug Design, became aware of the STEP Program from a local newspaper article given to her by her father Tony Hazis. That led to Doodlebug Design receiving a STEP grant to attend its first international trade show in Europe this past January.

“It was a huge show, and we’re going to go back this coming year. Our international sales have increased as a direct result of attending the show,” Sandoval said.

Because of the connections Doodlebug Design made at the trade show, they have increased their sales in the UK, Spain, France and Germany, and they were able to make contacts in several other countries. According to their Director of Sales, Tom Martin, it is important to make these connections in person.

“By attending a major trade show in Europe we met buyers from all over the world. We spoke to stores that may not come to U.S. trade shows. If you want to increase sales overseas, you need to meet with overseas buyers and going to international trade shows is a great way to do that.” Martin said.

Sandoval recognizes that going overseas can be a big investment. She explained that by reducing the cost of attending an international trade show, the STEP Grant can reduce some of the risk associated with expanding business overseas.

“If you’re considering going international why wouldn’t you apply for a STEP Grant? It wasn’t a difficult process to go through. It certainly was well worth it for us,” said Martin.

The STEP program aims to increase the number of small businesses who are exporting and to increase the value of exports for small businesses currently exporting. The grants assist businesses with participation in activities such as foreign trade missions, design of international marketing campaigns, export trade show exhibits, training workshops and more.

Any company with an intent in growing or starting their firm in exporting must attend the Utah Global Forum, presented by Governor Gary R. Herbert. UGF is Utah’s premiere international event organized to connect Utah business owners, leadership, sales and marketing professionals with individuals and companies who already have a strong presence in the exporting ecosystem.

The event will attract a broad domestic and international business audience that attendees and sponsors can connect with to create the necessary contacts to export more efficiently and economically to the global marketplace.

In conjunction with World Trade Center Utah, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Salt Lake Chamber, Governor Gary R. Herbert will present this forum on Sept. 24 in the Salt Palace, Grand Ballroom. To register, visit utahglobalforum.com. Registration is limited and will sell out quickly.

For more information on the STEP Program, contact Ariel Briggs at 801-538-8778 or at abriggs@utah.gov.