The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is a government grant that your business may qualify for. If your business is interested in selling goods or services overseas, the STEP grant may be right for you. In this article, we will break down the STEP program and explain what it is, who is eligible, and how you can apply to the STEP program.
What Is the STEP Program?
The STEP program, which started in 2011, is a federal program designed to assist small businesses with export development. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) awards grants to state and territory government agencies. These agencies use federal grant money (in combination with state funding) to assist small businesses in their area.
These STEP awardees (state and territory government agencies) offer grants and practical guidance for small businesses that are interested in exporting their goods or services. The purpose of the program is to increase the number of exporting small businesses and help small businesses currently exporting to increase the value and reach of their products.
Which Businesses Are Eligible for the STEP Program?
To be eligible for the STEP program, businesses need to be organized or incorporated in the United States and meet other requirements. Because these programs are operated at the state level, exact requirements may vary from state to state, but here are the qualifications that businesses can expect to meet regardless of location.
- Businesses must operate in the U.S.
- Business's products must be at least 51% U.S. made
- Businesses must be considered a small business, as defined by the SBA.
- Businesses must be in operation for at least one year.
- Must be a for-profit business and have enough capital to bear the cost of international exporting (packing, shipping, and customs costs).
What Can STEP Grants Be Used For?
Traditionally, the STEP program was most beneficial for companies that were ready to export physical products and wanted to attend trade shows overseas to promote their products. COVID-19 changed the dynamics of the STEP program. Now, it enables companies to transform their e-commerce website to enable sales in other countries. STEP grants can be used for the following export-related costs:
- Website and e-commerce site optimization to accept global sales.
- Translation of the website into foreign languages to make your company more attractive to foreign buyers.
- Training workshops to prepare your business for exporting.
- Participation in virtual or in-person global trade shows.
- International partner search and Gold Key Services.
- Designing, marketing, media, and more.
How Do You Apply to the STEP Program?
Applying to the STEP program begins by finding the STEP awardee in your state. Head to the directory of STEP awardees, find the agency in your state and click on the contact link. This will bring you to the STEP page for your state agency where you will find specific information about that STEP program. When you apply, a member of your state's STEP office will contact you with further details and answer any outstanding questions.
Is the STEP Program Right For Your Business?
The STEP program is intended to help businesses export for the first time or expand their exports further into other international markets. The STEP program could be beneficial for your business if you sell a product or service and wish to expand overseas. The grants can enable you to modify your website, find international partners, and much more.
If you need assistance applying for the STEP program or would like more information before getting started, contact the Small Business Development Center closest to you. They will be able to answer specific questions about your situation and point you in the right direction.
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