The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is funded in part through a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and is administered by the Vermont Department of Economic Development. Funding assistance is available to eligible small business exporters to support entry into foreign markets or expand international export activity through trade shows, trade missions, market research, e-commerce, and export education.
The objective of this program is to increase the overall number of small business exporters and increase their export sales with a focus on relationship development, export planning, and job creation—helping businesses diversify by entering international markets.
Eligible Vermont businesses working to expand into international markets may apply to receive reimbursements of up to 75 percent of pre-approved, allowable, export-related expenses, up to a maximum of $20,000 per year for up to four (4) of the following activities (a separate application must be submitted for each activity):
Virtual and In-Person Trade Shows, Trade Missions, and B2B Matchmaking Events
- Registration fees, booth space, and build-out and branding of trade show booths at export tradeshows
- Development of virtual trade show exhibits such as demonstration videos (audio and video production), product photography, digital content development, digital product catalog development*
- Participation in foreign trade missions or virtual trade missions. For the purposes of STEP, a foreign trade mission is defined as travel to a foreign country to explore or expand international business opportunities. Participants are expected to yield tangible outcomes such as seeking out potential buyers and increasing export sales volume
- Translation services
- Technology upgrades and platform fees to support the virtual meetings
- Contract services for pre-screening and organizing matchmaking meetings
- Fees for shipping samples in advance
- Participation in ExporTech or other export trade trainings
- Consultant fees for export compliance issues, strategic export growth planning, and market expansion. Consultations may provide the following benefits:
- An outside assessment of your export business that will identify gaps or opportunities
- Input on international growth strategy and plans
- Guidance on how to gather international market intelligence
- Advice on how to respond to specific challenges or pain points
- Navigation/connection to additional expert resources and other export support programs
- Assistance with navigating required international compliance standards
E-Commerce, Website Localization, and Digital Marketing
- Build or upgrade a website with an international focus including translation, search engine optimization (SEO), and localization
- E-commerce platform fees, including hosting and/or maintenance fees
- Expenses related to enabling website to accept international payments
- International online marketplace listing fees
- Translation of advertising content
- Design and placement of advertisements targeted to international markets, including trade publications and social media advertising
Compliance Testing, Certification, and Labeling an existing product for export market entry
- ITAR registration
- ISO 9000 certification
- CE Marking
- Label modifications required for export market entry
Export Market Research Tool Subscription
EXIM Bank Export Credit Insurance Fees
*Printing expenses may not be included in any request.
APPLICATION AND REIMBURSEMENT PROCESS
Vermont businesses must meet criteria set forth by the SBA defining Eligible Small Business Concerns (ESBCs) to be eligible for STEP funding. ESBCs may apply to receive reimbursements for eligible expenses by completing a two-part application.
- Prior to starting the activity, please complete PART A: Reimbursement Grant Application and submit all supporting documents:
- SBA Self-Representation as an Eligible Small Business Concern form (page 4 of application);
- Current W-9 signed within the last six (6) months;
- Certificate of Insurance certifying a minimum of $1,000,000 in commercial general liability, $500,000 in automobile liability, workers compensation in compliance with Vermont state laws, and indicating State of Vermont as the certificate holder.
- Upon completion of the trade activity, a second form is required, PART B Data Collection Instrument, along with scanned copies of paid invoices/receipts and an itemized worksheet indicating costs in U.S. Dollars at the time expenses were incurred.
Many questions about the STEP process may be answered in the STEP Program Guidelines. Please read through this document before starting your application.
“Funded in part through a grant with the US Small Business Administration”