For companies looking to expand internationally, Global Trade Ventures are a valuable way to directly connect business leaders with individuals in overseas markets. At each trade venture location, attendees participate in pre-arranged, customized meetings with companies whose needs or capabilities align with their export objectives.
Before participating in any trade ventures or missions, Milwaukee-based Solaris, a designer and manufacturer of therapeutic garments for lymphedema and venous diseases, had 35 employees. Three trips later, the company exports its products to more than 50 countries and has grown to employ 80 people, according to Kyle Weatherly, the company’s president.
We recently sat down with Kyle to discuss his experience attending trade ventures and missions:
Q: How did you decide to begin participating in Global Trade Ventures and Trade Missions?
A: We saw a newspaper article that Governor Walker was going to China on one of the trade missions, which led us to check out the website and call WEDC for more information. From there, we ended up going on that trip. The best thing about the trade mission was that we built relationships with WEDC and saw all the assistance they offer companies like ours.
Q: How many trade ventures and missions have you been a part of? Where did you go?
A: Three. We went to China, India and Europe.
Q: How have these trips helped you establish ties in those countries?
A: It varies. In China, because of the respect they have for government, the level of meetings that you’re able to get just by virtue of traveling with the Governor is wholly different than what you would get on your own. More broadly speaking, when you’re a small business, you don’t have the resources, experience or expertise to know where to even begin for international trade. But WEDC helps to connect you with people who could potentially be opinion leaders, distributors or customers. Being a small business it’s incredibility difficult to schedule a meeting with the key individuals in a particular country if you don’t have help.
Q: How has the Global Trade Venture program helped you create a functional export plan?
A: We don’t even look at a country without asking WEDC for resources, advice and possibilities for entering this market. We treat them like we would a consultant, like a trusted consultant.
Q: What is the biggest takeaway you gained from going on trade ventures and missions?
A: The biggest benefit is realizing what an opportunity international trade is, even for small companies. It seems difficult, distant and literally foreign when you’re a small company. Where do you start? Who do you talk to? Who are going to be your customers? What regulations are in place? WEDC makes international trade possible for us. It’s turned us from a company that said “Let’s focus domestically, because that’s what we know and that’s where we’ve found success,” to exporting in more than 50 countries.
Q: Would you recommend trade ventures and missions to other companies?
A: Absolutely, trade ventures can really make the biggest difference for companies that are intimidated of expanding internationally and have the least amount of experience and expertise.