Say "trade mission," and many women entrepreneurs instinctively say "I can't afford it."
Canadian entrepreneur Carol Blakey discovered how inexpensively she could get involved in international trade when she participated in a virtual trade mission (VTM) last year with women from Canada, Malaysia and Singapore. "Initially, I was concerned that it was all women--I felt I had lost a good portion of my market," says Blakey, owner of Cheiron Resources Ltd., a Calgary, Alberta, firm that represents manufacturers of environmentally friendly products and equipment. Despite her hesitation, Blakey logged on to the public portion of the VTM and began observing conversations. When the 46-year-old entrepreneur saw a potential connection, she acted.
"I sent Hazimah Binti Zainuddin a quick note, and we began talking," says Blakey of her contact with the managing director of Ibex-Hyrax Chunmi, a refiner of transformer oil in Malaysia. The women are now doing business together, and Blakey recently visited Zainuddin in Malaysia.
"I saw this as a way of reducing my time and expenses," says Blakey, "but you still have to make the investment of going out there. This method can't replace a physical trade mission. You get rid of all the basic information-swapping [via the VTM], which leaves you free to get down to negotiating when you meet."
Cheiron Resources Ltd., (403) 241-3276, http://www.cheiron-resources.com