State Trade Expansion Program

State Trade Expansion Program

The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant helps small businesses expand internationally by funding international business development activities. The purpose of this grant is to offset the cost of conducting international business development for small businesses.

The max amount a company can receive in a year is $10,000. Examples of global business development activities include:

  • Attending trade shows
  • Holding international business meetings
  • Researching new markets
  • Updating marketing materials for new markets
  • Compliance testing

The U.S. Small Business Administration funds part of this program, and the Global Business Development (GBD) department administers the grant to businesses.

The Global Business Development (GBD) division selects a number of trade shows each year to attend. The benefit of attending a trade show with GBD is that the State government pays all booth costs and exhibitor fees, and companies that exhibit at the State booth receive a travel stipend to attend the show.

If GBD is not planning on attending a trade show your company is interested in, you can apply for general funding to attend any international trade show. Your company can also apply for general funding to conduct international business trips where your company is expanding its exports.

Participating in international trade shows is one of the most effective ways for companies to enter into new global markets or expand their visibility in existing markets. Trade shows offer opportunities to meet potential buyers, test market interest, and evaluate the competition.

GBD-supported Trade Shows

During the 2019-2020 grant period, our Global Business Development staff will attend these trade shows, and we invite eligible companies to apply to join us:

Düsseldorf, Germany
November 16-19, 2020
Application is open. Apply now.

JEC World
Paris, France
March 9-11, 2021
Application will open December 2020.

Hannover Messe
Hannover, Germany
April 12-16, 2021
Application will open January 2021.

Solar Power International 2020
October 21-22, 2020
Applications closed.

Other Trade Shows and Missions

Depending on your business’s needs, you may apply for general funding to attend a trade show specific to your industry. Other trade shows include:

Businesses can take advantage of these U.S. Commercial Service programs, all of which are virtual.

Market Intelligence
  • Customized Market Research
  • Initial Market Check
Gold Key: Matchmaking Services
  • International Partner Search
  • International Partner Search Plus Virtual Introductions
  • eCommerce Innovation Lab
  • International Company Profile (Full or Partial)
In-Country Promotion of Products or Services
  • Single Company Promotion
  • Featured U.S. Exporters Listing
Additional Services
  • Business Service Provider
  • Virtual Fair
  • Official Letter
  • Virtual Introduction

U.S. Commercial Services Programs (PDF)

To apply for this grant, your company must:

  • Be registered with the Colorado Secretary of State and in Good Standing
  • Have headquarters in Colorado or have at least 50% of your employees based in Colorado
  • Be a U.S. company seeking to export goods or services of U.S. origin or with at least 51% U.S. content
  • Be at least one year old as of the date you would begin using STEP grant funds
  • Be new to export or expanding to a new export market
  • Have a commercialized product or service to export
  • Be export-ready (see below)
  • Meet the applicable industry-based small business size standard established under section 3 of the Small Business Act; or the alternate size standard applicable to the program under section 7(a) of the Small Business Act and the loan programs under title V of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 (15 U.S.C. 695 et seq.)
How to be Export-Ready

Global Business Development staff evaluates export readiness based on your company’s ability to meet new customer demand, provide customer service to foreign buyers, and follow export regulations and certifications required to sell your product or service in the target market.

Eligible Expenses

Eligible activities and expenses that qualify include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Airfare (consistent with Fly America Act guidelines), ground transportation, baggage fees, parking, meals and lodging (based on GSA/Department of State per diem rates)
  • Registration fees and booth space for trade shows
  • Trade mission fees
  • Currency exchange fees
  • Interpreter fees
  • Fees for shipping sample products (capped at $4,000)
  • Foreign business-to-business matchmaking services, including the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Gold Key service
  • Design of marketing media (capped at $6,000)
  • Translation for website, search engine optimization and localization services (capped at $6,000)
  • Compliance testing an existing product to enter into an export market (capped at $6,000)
  • Subscriptions for applicant export research tool for market research (capped at $2,000)

Companies – not an individual employee of the company – must apply for the STEP grant. No third party consultants, agents, or representatives may apply on behalf of a client company or their own consultant firm.

Apply online in the OEDIT application portal. Apply for the grant at least four to six weeks before traveling. If you’re applying to attend a trade show with the Global Business Development division, you will need to apply during the application window stated in the Trade Shows section.

Application Materials

Online Application
The online application asks about your company and export project, including:

  • Your company’s financial health, such as proof of profitability
  • What products or services you will export
  • Why you chose that market
  • How you will use the grant funds
  • A projected budget for total forecasted expenses and an estimate of your export sales immediately and within six months of using the funds

Market Research Report
Complete this market research report to explain your decision to enter or expand into the proposed market.

Market Research Report Template (PDF)

Include a detailed budget outlining all expenses for the project.

When listing expected personnel and equipment expenses, be as detailed as possible; category labels such as “manufacturing equipment” and “management personnel” are too generic. Do not include equipment or salaries of personnel that the project team needs for operations outside of this project.

Budget Template (XLS)

Selection Process

It typically takes us two to three weeks to review applications. A panel reviews all applications.

Companies that win the grant will receive a detailed commitment letter listing the approved export development project or activities, timing, and breakout of approved expenses in U.S. dollars. Even if your company qualifies for the grant, we may award less funding than you request based on the strength of applications and number of applicants.

Award Distribution

Businesses will submit for reimbursement once their trip has been completed. If expenses are not submitted within the 30-day limit, company reimbursements may not be processed.

Reimbursements will be paid in full up to the awarded amount unless the company does not fulfill its obligations for participating in the approved program or submitting required receipts and summaries.

OEDIT will send surveys to STEP grantees every six months for up to three years. By applying for the grant, your company agrees to:

  • Provide information on export sales data related to STEP funding
  • Respond to all STEP surveys in a timely manner


Funded in part by a grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration

Nicole Gunkle International Grants Manager