When Nancy Simmons was contacted by customers in Brazil about buying refurbished aerospace parts from her Orlando, Fla., plant, she wasn’t sure how to handle the language barrier.
None of her eight employees spoke Portuguese, and she didn’t have the resources to pay for a local team in Brazil. She wound up turning to a Portuguese-speaking neighbor to help negotiate the deal.
Spurred by lower demand at home and a cheaper dollar, a growing number of small-business owners are looking for new customers outside the U.S. But overseas expansion is often harder and more complicated for small businesses, which lack the deep pockets and expertise of larger firms.
U.S. exports rose to more than $170 billion in June from $151 billion a year earlier and $128 billion in June 2009, the Commerce Department reported this month.
Small businesses helped fuel those numbers, according to Fred Hochberg, chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which finances U.S. exports. The agency said earlier this month that since October, it has approved a record-high $24.5 billion in export financing for companies of all sizes, including some 2,142 small businesses, up from 2,036 last year and less than 800 in 2006.
“For years you didn’t see a lot of exports from U.S. businesses because local markets were so robust,” says Mr. Hochberg. “That’s changing.”
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