SBA chief rolls out export grants program in Raleigh
Posted September 27, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. — An Obama administration official says small businesses like one she visited in Raleigh on Tuesday can compete globally to sell their products thanks to technology, loans and now with the help of some grants.
Small Business Administration chief Karen Mills joined Gov. Beverly Perdue at Raleigh Denim's downtown offices to announce that North Carolina is receiving $603,442 from the federal government to boost exports. It's part of a pool of $30 million being distributed nationwide.
North Carolina will match the SBA money with $150,000 in state funds for an initiative called N.C. Passport to Export, a grant program that will be administered by the state Department of Commerce.
"Raleigh Denim is the template for what we want to do more of in North Carolina," Perdue said. "We want to seed innovation."
The husband-and-wife team of Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko worked for four years to expand their high-end jeans company from their living room to a Martin Street workshop with 16 employees. They sold 10,000 pairs of their handmade jeans through boutiques nationwide last year and are now eying a bigger market.
"The most room for growth is overseas," Victor Lytvinenko said. "We can still grow here a bit, but the markets overseas are interested in American-made goods. They're interested in quality. They're interested in American authenticity."
"This just proves American entrepreneurs can compete anywhere, even in traditional American-made goods like textiles that, in the past few years, have really gone abroad," Mills said.
The grants will help emerging businesses connect with overseas markets through trade shows and overseas travel, she said. They also will help educate small- and medium-sized businesses on the ins and outs of selling overseas.
"We're going to increase the number of small businesses and innovative entrepreneurs like this who make terrific products that compete all around the world and help them export," Mills said. "That creates jobs in this country."
Last year, North Carolina businesses exported more than $25 billion worth of products and services, officials said. Exports support about 350,000 jobs in the state, they said.
The Lytvinenkos said they hope to win a small grant to help them translate Raleigh Denim's website into several different languages.
"I think parts of this grant will help us go and be part of the sales (overseas). We probably do the best job of selling our jeans of anybody," Victor Lytvinenko said.
Perdue also has planned an eight-day trip in October to China and Japan to try to boost exports and foreign investment in North Carolina.