Each year, the Colorado Minority Business Office (MBO) awards grants to up to ten minority, veteran and women-owned businesses that show great potential for branching out into international markets or expanding their existing international markets to other regions. These Leading Edge for International Opportunities (LE4IO) grants are administered by Colorado MBO, in collaboration with the SBDC Network and World Trade Center Denver.
In addition to the export grants of up to $10,000, the LE4IO program includes an educational component through the World Trade Center Denver that assists in the development of strategic plans for international export markets. Additionally, the Colorado SBDC Network will provide businesses with 5-hours of no-cost consulting to implement the learning objectives. The LE4IO grants may be used to offset the costs of international business development from marketing projects, airfare and lodging, conferences and foreign trade show exhibitions. The combination of the program grants and educational components has created many Leading Edge success stories.
One of these stories is Segrity, a company that offers control systems for modern hydroelectric power. Segrity has set a goal of growing their international market to 20 percent and working in Australian, Canadian and South American markets. The grant was used to fund travel to South America in January 2019, exhibitor participation at the HydroVision International Tradeshow in July 2019 and solidifying a strategic alliance with a Canadian company. With the combination of funding and business support, CEO Veronica Ferro and her company were able to capitalize on the opportunity to break into the international market by eliminating monetary or business administration constraints.
Another grant recipient, Ensight Energy Consulting, recently returned from a summer trip to Jalisco, Mexico. Utilizing the MBO grant and the OEDIT STEP Grant funded by the SBA, President and CEO Monique Dyers funded the business trip which resulted in several “successful meetings with the private sector and government entities to discuss bilateral partnership opportunities in the energy sector,” said Dyers.
Mediterranean beauty company, Katari Beauty, also leveraged the program. Kate Fish, founder and owner, is originally from Russia and moved to the US when she was just 20 years old. Fish has seen great success with her Mediterranean beauty company since it was founded in 2010 and she anticipates expanding sales to Canada and Europe within 2019. Fish shares that, “without this program and all of the education and support, we would not have embarked on selling to two international markets in the same year.”
Sankofic Journey, a multi-faceted business that includes black history childrens’ books and authentic African jewelry, has found many benefits from the export grant. Owner Mattye Crowley shares that the program aided in gaining a better understanding of business administration for international marketing including international contracts, incoterms and target market research.
“The export program is intended to break down barriers to expanding into the international markets for businesses that show great potential,” says Ulises Fernandez, program coordinator at the Colorado Minority Business Office. “The program offers the funding, training and consultations required to embark on export expansion that can otherwise seem overwhelming.”
The MBO Leading Edge for International Opportunities will begin accepting applications starting at the end of January 2020. To sign up for updates and receive direct access to the application once live, visit the Minority Business Office’s Export Program site.