FauxyFurr in Arlington up-cycles boots, adding custom trim. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

FauxyFurr in Arlington up-cycles boots, adding custom trim. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

‘Accidental exporters’ can tap into federal and state funds

The SBA offers funds and expertise to small companies that hope to boost their export business.

ARLINGTON — Chrysta “Jac” Cash and Jill Cash saw online orders for their custom-trimmed boots surge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their explanation?

“People were at home and shopping,” Chrysta Cash said.

The couple own Fauxy Furr, an Arlington business, which offers custom-made hats, new and recycled boots and vintage clothing at their e-commerce site and a brick-and-mortar store at 430 N. Olympic Ave.

Orders poured in from across the United States, and from overseas.

Shoppers in England and Australia were particularly charmed by their Boho boots.

“We sold them to a lot of people there,” Cash said.

Their recent experience uncovering an international market isn’t unique.

A lot of small businesses boosted their e-commerce and online presence during the pandemic due to in-person restrictions or closures. Many discovered their wares were in demand across the globe, said Michael Fong, Northwest regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA calls them “accidental exporters.”

“They got an order from Canada and Bingo! they’re an exporter,” said Gabriel Esparza, associate administrator, SBA office of international trade.

The SBA recently hosted a small business export summit at Hotel Indigo in Everett.

Some 60% of Snohomish County’s workforce is tied to international trade, Fong said.

(The Port of Everett, alone, supports between $21 billion to $30 billion in exports with exports to Canada, Japan, China, South Korea, the Philippines and Mexico topping the list.)

Small businesses account for a sizeable chunk of that trade, Fong said.

Now, the SBA aims to boost the fortunes of small business owners and entrepreneurs by offering money and expertise to enhance their export activities.

“When you think of exporters, you probably think of big companies exporting shoes, planes or farm equipment,” Fong said. “But in fact exports are driven by small business.”

In 2019, more than 12,000 businesses around the state exported more than $55 billion worth of goods and service internationally: 90% of those exports are generated by small businesses, Fong noted.

The volume of exports is up this year, and new and small businesses are contributing to the surge.

“People didn’t just sit around during the pandemic, they started businesses,” Esparza told summit participants.

According to the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research Washington exports increased 29% in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the same period a year ago.

In Edmonds, Richard Brinton, founder and president of BBD International, was named the 2022 SBA Seattle District Small Business Exporter of the Year.

Brinton has been in business for 25 years. During that span, he’s regularly consulted with the SBA for business and export information and aid.

“A big part of business is shipping military equipment to South Korea,” Brinton said. “Today, for example, I’m shipping industrial heaters to heat aircraft hangars.”

“The SBA helped me get a paycheck protection program loan, and it went as smooth as clockwork,” Brinton said.

The agency also helped him apply for a registration that the federal government uses to track the shipment and activities of companies involved with defense-related products, services, and data.

“They helped me get my ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) registration which is a scary thing — you do something wrong and it’s a $100,000 fine,” Brinton said.

SBA services are generally offered at no-cost and can assist with business development, planning, and market research.

Small businesses that want to expand their export activities may be eligible for SBA funds.

Here’s what the SBA and other agencies offer:

• Funded through the SBA, the Washington State Trade Expansion Program provides cash assistance, in many cases up to $10,000, to help small businesses expand international sales. The reimbursement program will pay for marketing materials, web design, international payment handling, shipping of product samples, travel, trade missions and translation services. For more information, visit the state Department of Commerce website at commerce@wa.gov

• The Export Express Loan Program allows quick access to capital for businesses that need financing up to $500,000. You can apply for a line of credit before finalizing an export sale or even before visiting a foreign market.

• The Export Working Capital Program allows small business owners to apply for loans of up to $5 million in advance of finalizing an export sale or contract, giving exporters greater flexibility in negotiating payment terms to fulfill orders and finance international sales.

• The International Trade Loan Program helps small businesses enter international markets and make investments to compete with other importers. Those loans, up to $5 million, offer a combination of fixed-asset, permanent working-capital financing, and debt refinancing with SBA’s maximum guaranty of 90 percent on the total loan amount.

The Washington Export Outreach Team and SBA’s partners at the Small Business Development Centers have certified experts who can provide one-on-one advice and ongoing support for businesses interested in exporting or expanding into international markets.

Accidental exporter Fauxy Furr, would like to expand its export business and fill even more international orders, Cash said. “The more the merrier.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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