In 1994, The Doll Collection was just a neighborhood retail shop in Louisville, Kentucky, with a staff of three. It didn't even generate much of a profit. Three years later, it's a company with a worldwide presence--and sales to match. What happened to transform the business? Two words: the Internet.
Getting on the Internet was the perfect way for The Doll
Collection to advertise its popular products and take that leap
into international markets. Likewise, it may be the best and
for your small business to reach international consumers.
Using html, a computer language that the company's Webmaster Jason Walters says he learned in two weeks, Walters designed what he admits is a simple site showcasing well-known dolls like Barbie and Madame Alexander to lure buyers. Simple or not, the company's Web site has promoted the business worldwide and resulted in sales to almost every country, including Japan, China and Australia. And since the site went up last year, the tiny doll shop's sales have escalated--to the tune of 375 percent over last year's.
The things you'll learn when you take your business global via the Internet may astound you. Although Walters knew Barbie was a popular doll, the extent of that popularity shocked him. "She's like the Grateful Dead," says Walters. "You'd be surprised."
Check out The Doll Collection's Web site at http://www.dollpage.com.
Need an overseas lawyer or accountant, but don't have the first clue how to find one? Now, thanks to several referral sources, finding overseas professionals to help you export is just a phone call away.
uEuroLink for Lawyers is a Leeds, England-based network of small to medium-sized law firms worldwide. The service offers small-business exporters referrals to nearly 2,500 lawyers in 120 cities across the globe--so no matter where you need legal advice, EuroLink for Lawyers should be able to hook you up. Call 44-113-242-2845.
uGlobaLex is also a legal referral system, with headquarters at Milwaukee law firm Foley & Lardner. Consisting of four major law firms with offices on three continents, the GlobaLex network of attorneys can help with licensing, finance, payment procedures, foreign currency matters, international transportation and foreign customs law and international dispute resolution, among other issues. Call (414) 271-2400.
uBased in London, HLB International represents accountants and business advisors in more than 90 countries. Its members specialize in strategic planning, company structures and formation, corporate and personal taxation, commodity taxes, accounting and auditing, as well as other areas. Call 44-171-334-4783.
uLooking for a CPA? Check out the CPA Managing Partner Report, an annual directory listing CPA firms, most offering international services. The directory is available for $13.50 per copy or $297 for an annual subscription of 12 issues. Call (800) 926-7926.
Small-business exporters, most of whom would rather have a root canal than fill out the stack of U.S. Customs forms required of them, can now breathe a lot easier. A new CD-ROM disk allows exporters to fill out forms on their computers and then print, mail or fax them to their destinations.
QuickX offers more than 120 pages of U.S. Customs forms in an electronic format that you can fill out by tabbing from field to field, making corrections as needed and printing out as many copies as you want right from your computer.
In addition to forms, QuickX also offers key regulatory information, such as the full text of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (Titles 15 and 19) and a list of all Standard Industrial Codes. Need a directory of U.S. Embassies? International banks? QuickX has those, too, in addition to freight companies, Internet resources and an extensive industry glossary.
The cost for all this convenience? $249. To order QuickX from Englewood, Colorado-based APX Data LLC, call (800) 500-4338, or for more information, call (303) 850-7193.
Its A Small World
If you sometimes feel you are the only small business in the world of exporting, take heart: A recent Coopers & Lybrand study reveals today's new exporters are more likely to be small businesses than the bigwigs you might expect.
"Traditionally, readiness for expansion to international markets increases with company size," says Mark Levine, director of customs and international trade practices at Coopers & Lybrand. "But [recently], more smaller firms have been accelerating into the export market. Only 34 percent of firms with fewer than 100 employees were exporting in 1992, as opposed to 42 percent now."
The survey of CEOs at the 434 fastest-growing U.S. product and service companies found that, in addition to being small, new U.S. exporters are also more likely to sell services than products. Surprised? Levine says it has a lot to do with the U.S. lead in the high-tech market. "As America shifts toward an information- and entertainment-based economy, opportunities dramatically increase for [high-tech U.S.] service companies to perform consulting work abroad," he explains.
What's not surprising is that small businesses that export expect to grow faster than those that don't. Companies involved in exporting said they expect to increase sales by 31.2 percent in 1996, while those that don't sell abroad expect a 24.9 percent growth rate. The bottom line? Exporting builds businesses--so what are you waiting for?
Help with exporting won't cost an arm and a leg if you get it from local educational institutions. Use the following resources to clarify and develop your exporting plans. Or, if you're already doing business overseas, get a second opinion from a university expert--it couldn't hurt!
- Wellesley College professor Marshall Goldman is a noted expert on exporting to Russia. He can be reached at (617) 495-4485.
- New York's Columbia University's resident global expert is professor John Ruggie at (212) 854-4445.
- The University of Texas at Austin offers periodic seminars on doing business in Mexico. Seminars are usually geared toward small to medium-sized businesses. Call Diane Williams at (512) 471-1829 for more information.
- The University of South Carolina, Columbia, is known for its expertise on central Europe. For information, contact the director of the school's Division of Research, Douglas Woodward, at (803) 777-2510.