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Delaware awarded latest round of STEP grant funds

Delaware News Desk
For the sixth year in a row, the Delaware Department of State has received a State Trade and Export Promotion award from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

For the sixth year in a row, the Delaware Department of State has received a State Trade and Export Promotion award from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Delaware looks forward to using this year’s STEP grant funds, in addition to remaining funds awarded last year to continue to support Delaware small businesses and increase exports. Although COVID-19 has kept most sales managers inside state lines, they have not stopped selling their products and services overseas. Business development must go on, and the SBA STEP grant program is designed to support them in their efforts.

The program’s objectives are to increase the number of U.S. small businesses that export, increasing sales and ultimately generating jobs in Delaware. The STEP Grant program makes matching-fund awards to states to assist small businesses in the international marketplace. With the SBA STEP Grant award and the State match, Delaware exporters and small businesses now have access to $386,000 in grant funds for their export efforts.

To date, 96 Delaware small businesses have participated in the program. As a result, these small businesses report $31 million in new export sales over the past two years, and project nearly $300 million in additional export sales. In addition, 27 Delaware jobs have been created.

“The STEP Grant funds from the SBA have proven to be critical to Delaware small business owners, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Delaware Secretary of State. “This program is essential for keeping small businesses on the growth track.” 

As with previous STEP grants, a significant portion of the grant will be used to directly reimburse small- and medium-sized companies for eligible, pre-approved export expenses such as translation of international marketing materials, SEO and website optimization for international audiences, virtual business meetings with overseas customers and interpreters. In addition, once international travel is determined safe, the funds may be used for international travel to secure and visit customers as well as trade show activities. Without STEP grant funds, the costs of these services would otherwise prohibit many Delaware small businesses from entering lucrative global markets.

Export Delaware, the state’s official export resource for small businesses, will use the grant to finance export-related marketing activities. Delaware small businesses that are interested in applying may learn more about the program at export.delaware.gov.

“We are thrilled to continue to support Delaware’s small businesses as they begin to export and grow through increased international sales,” said Beth Pomper, head of Export Delaware. “Now more than ever, international export sales are critical. One major purchase order from an overseas company could sustain a Delaware small for several months as they weather the COVID-19 economy here in the States.” 

This year, Export Delaware is offering customized virtual business meetings — like a business trip, but through Zoom/Skype with prospective customers around the world. These trade programs are designed specifically for Delaware small businesses, and provide the opportunity for their teams to meet one-on-one with potential customers and distributors overseas; all while remaining safely at home.

These meetings are coordinated by Delaware’s international trade representatives, who are funded by the SBA STEP program. The representatives work with the Export Delaware team to organize meetings with targeted customers tailored to each participant’s needs. Delaware’s trade representatives abroad have wide networks in their countries, enabling them to secure meetings with high-level decision makers. Export Delaware staff work closely with Delaware businesses, even participating in their meetings, if applicable, to help facilitate discussion and close deals.

“We hold the hand of each sales manager throughout the process,” said Pomper. “We do all we can to help them achieve purchase orders from new customers overseas.” 

Pomper is no stranger to international business development; before joining the state of Delaware and launching the state’s strategic export plan, Pomper launched more than 100 brands overseas.

For more on the STEP Grant and how to apply, visit export.delaware.gov or contact Beth Pomper at beth.pomper@delaware.gov.