ROGERS — The World Trade Center Arkansas proudly joined the U.S. Small Business Administration as it celebrated 10 years of the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant, which has been instrumental in helping Arkansas small businesses find global success.
Celebrations began Monday, Sept. 28, and concluded with a a webinar featuring state and federal leaders, partner organizations that collaborated to make STEP a success, along with many of the Arkansas small businesses that are now exporters with the benefit of STEP grants.
With help from Byrd Haus Designs, a woman-owned graphic design company in east Arkansas, the Center highlighted four diverse companies from across the state that have expanded their exports and found new trade opportunities thanks to STEP funding: ZÜM Toyz, which makes creative children’s toys from recycled materials in Hiwasse; Aha! Interpreting Solutions in Bentonville; Catfish Pro in Springdale; and Galley Support Innovations in Sherwood.
ZÜM was also honored this year as a small business All-Star for its proficiency in expanding digital business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Melvin Torres, the Center’s director of Western Hemisphere trade, moderated a panel where ZÜM Toyz was the featured company.
ZÜM Toyz used STEP funding as a launching pad to the international toy market. Todd Mains, ZÜM’s founder and owner, was able to attend Spielwarenmesse, a massive international toy trade show in Germany, where he showed off ZÜM’s products to potential buyers and learned more about the intricacies of the European market.
“The World Trade Center Arkansas and the SBA STEP grant have been fantastic resource partners and a catalyst to begin and now expand substantial growth on our international exports. Without the STEP grant, we would have never started exporting in the first place. Now, we are increasing our sales even more by expanding our exports to additional countries. We are extremely appreciative of all of it!” — Todd Mains, founder and owner, ZÜM Toyz
Aha! Interpreting Solutions
A Hispanic, woman-owned small business in Northwest Arkansas, Aha! Interpreting Solutions used STEP funding to attend a Mexican trade mission that turned the company into an international business.
“My team set themselves up with goals to hit the floor running and to not stop until we reached our goal. That is exactly what we did within 24 hours of my team arriving in a country that we had never been to and with no business contacts we successfully exported Professional face to face language services.” — Iliana Sutton, founder and CEO, Aha! Interpreting Solutions
Catfish Pro, a veteran-owned business in Springdale, has revolutionized the bait/tackle industry with their ingenuous bait that “will stay on your hook when nothing else will.”
STEP funding helped Catfish Pro attend ICAST 2019, an annual fishing show that showcases innovative fishing gear, accessories, and apparel, which launched their product into the national chain Scheels All Sports. Next year, Academy will be carrying Catfish Pro bait in all of its stores. The funding helped expand their digital footprint, which has exploded on Facebook.
“Our Facebook marketing has helped us grow to over 62,000 people who like and follow us. We continue to sell our catfish bait to all Scheels stores here in the US. This happened because of ICAST2019. So the STEP funds are helping in more ways than we know.” — Mike Baker, owner, Catfish Pro
Galley Support Innovations
For over 60 years, GSI has been a leading manufacturer of interior hardware for planes, tranes, yachts and more. The woman owned business reached international markets thanks to STEP funding.
The company utilized STEP funding to attend the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition.
“GSI has been able to attract new international customers from countries such as Canada, Brazil and Switzerland. It was a trip to EBACE made possible by STEP funds that opened GSI up to the VVIP aircraft market, increasing our domestic and international sales.” — Gina Radke, president and CEO, Galley Support Innovations.
Access STEP funding for your business
The STEP program, implemented by the Small Business Administration in 2011, is a trade and export initiative with objectives to increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to increase the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting.
Since its creation, STEP has recorded over $3.8 billion in exports with more than 12,000 small businesses receiving grants to fund their export opportunities and increase their footprint across 141 countries.
The World Trade Center Arkansas secures funding for eligible Arkansas companies. The awards fund export initiatives such as inbound and outbound trade missions, trade shows and exhibitions, consulting, web translations and more. For more information on applying for funds, contact Trish Watkins, our STEP Grant director.
The mission of the World Trade Center Arkansas is to grow trade and increase Arkansas exports by connecting Arkansas businesses to the world through international trade services. The Center is part of the University of Arkansas and serves as the trade promotion arm for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. For more information and valuable updates, please follow the Center on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to the World Trade Center Arkansas newsletter.