From the May 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

Thanks to technology, you can instantaneously find customers all around the world. But where to start?

  • Visit the U.S. Commercial Service, which can provide world-class market research, promote your product or service to qualified buyers at trade events, make introductions to qualified buyers and distributors, and counsel you through every step of the export process. In most cases, there's no charge.
  • Ask your state officials for free assistance. In Illinois, for example, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities supports foreign trade locations in Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, the Far East, Latin America, North Asia/Oceania, Poland and Shanghai. U.S. state foreign trade offices help business owners find customers and expand internationally. Do a Google search for "U.S. state foreign trade office" and your state to see if you have representation.
  • Contact the Washington, DC, foreign embassy community. Select a country where you wish to conduct business, and e-mail the country specialist to request assistance. For example, say "I want to sell widgets in Japan. Please provide a list of the top 10 importers for this type of product. Thank you." You will be amazed at the quality of customer information the specialist will provide on a complimentary basis.
Laurel Delaney runs GlobeTrade.comand LaurelDelaney.com, Chicago-based firms that specialize in international entrepreneurship.