Doing Europe

She went, she saw, she came home with entrepreneurial success.

Five years ago, a friend asked Karen Hamilton for a favor, and that request snowballed into a business. Hamilton and her husband, Gary, own The Hamilton Group Ltd., a Whitefish, Montana, firm that sells truck parts to private companies abroad. This past May, she and Gary went to the Netherlands, France and Germany with a Women In Trade Business Development Mission. We asked Karen to walk us through her experience.

Evaluating Possibilities
"I got literature on the mission and had to determine if [it] was the best avenue to get new business," says Karen. "I had to analyze the required money and how long it would take to make it back."

Karen sent information to the U.S. embassies in the Netherlands and France to help the commercial officers uncover potential business partners she could meet. She also detailed what she expected from the mission, including drumming up new business.

The trip seemed worth the expense, which Karen now estimates to have been about $8,000. She suspects it will take 12 to 18 months to recoup the investment.

Day One
Up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight from Whitefish to The Hague in the Netherlands for a get-acquainted party the next day.

Day Two
To an 8 a.m. group briefing, which included an overview of the Netherlands' economy and culture, with a U.S. Embassy representative.

Then a one-on-one meeting with the senior commercial attaché followed. "He gave us a study on military business in the Netherlands," says Karen.

Following the meetings, the group took a VIP streetcar tour from The Hague to the city of Delft. There they attended a cocktail party with the mayor of Delft and Dutch entrepreneurial women.

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This article was originally published in the November 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Doing Europe.

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