The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant helps small businesses expand internationally by funding international business development activities. The purpose of this grant is to offset the cost of expanding internationally for small businesses.
The max amount a company can receive in a year is $15,000. Examples of global business development activities include:
- attending trade shows
- holding international business meetings
- researching new markets
- updating marketing materials for new markets
- compliance testing
The U.S. Small Business Administration funds part of this program, and the Global Business Development (GBD) division administers the grant to businesses.
International Export Activities
The Global Business Development (GBD) division selects a number of trade shows each year to attend. The benefit of attending a trade show with GBD is that the State pays all booth costs and exhibitor fees, and companies that exhibit at the State booth receive a travel stipend to attend the show.
If we are not planning on attending a trade show your company is interested in, you can apply for general funding to attend any international trade show. Your company can also apply for general funding to conduct international business trips where your company is expanding its exports.
Participating in international trade shows is one of the most effective ways for companies to enter into new global markets or expand their visibility in existing markets. Trade shows offer opportunities to meet potential buyers, test market interest, and evaluate the competition.
GBD-supported trade shows
During the 2020 to 2021 grant period, our Global Business Development staff will attend these trade shows, and we invite eligible companies to apply to join us.
Trade missions we've attended this year and/or have closed applications for:
- Germany Virtual Export Trade Mission - March 1 to 12, 2021
- Hannover Messe - April 12 to 16, 2021
- Aerospace Digital Trade Mission to Europe - June 7 to 11, 2021
- Outdoor Recreation Canada Virtual Export Trade Mission - June to August 2021
- Virtual Arab Health - June 21 to 24, 2021
- Green Expo - September 7 to 9, 2021
Other trade shows and missions
Depending on your business’s needs, you may apply for general funding to attend a trade show specific to your industry. Other trade shows to consider include:
The Global Consultant Network helps Colorado-based businesses expand into other countries. Consultants offer these services:
Consulting services typically last between three and eight months. Consultants can help your business in these countries:
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
Take Your Business Abroad is an introduction course on international exporting to help small businesses take their current products and services international. Small businesses will learn where to go, what documentation and requirements you will face, and common mistakes to avoid.
The course will take place in Fall 2021. The first day will be an all-day training followed by one-on-one meetings with Jim Foley one the second day.
This course will help you:
- learn details of export procedures
- understand when your company should expand internationally
- formulate an export strategy
- overcome common mistakes made by beginning exporters
- identify and target high-potential markets with proven market research methods
- adapt your marketing strategies for international success
- build expertise in export terminology
About the instructor
Jim Foley is the director of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship and the Illinois Small Business Development Center International Trade Center at Bradley University where he manages a program of counseling and training in international business, marketing, logistics and finance. He is the Director of International Programs for the Foster College of Business and author of The Global Entrepreneur: Taking Your Business International and co-author of International Marketing, one of the landmark textbooks in international marketing.
Mr. Foley has over 20 years of experience in international marketing, sales, and corporate management and has lived in Mexico, UK, and France. He received his MBA from the London Business School at the University of London, and his undergraduate degree from Knox College.
How to apply
Businesses will need to apply to the State Trade Expansion Program. Applications will open late summer 2021.
These U.S. Commercial Service programs, all of which are virtual, are eligible for STEP funding.
- Customized Market Research
- Initial Market Check
Gold Key: Matchmaking Services
- International Partner Search
- International Partner Search Plus Virtual Introductions
- eCommerce Innovation Lab
- International Company Profile - Full or Partial
In-Country Promotion of Products or Services
- Single Company Promotion
- Featured U.S. Exporters Listing
- Business Service Provider
- Virtual Fair
- Official Letter
- Virtual Introduction
To apply for this grant, your company needs to:
- be registered with the Colorado Secretary of State and in Good Standing
- have headquarters in Colorado or have at least 50% of your employees based in Colorado
- be a U.S. company seeking to export goods or services of U.S. origin or with at least 51% U.S. content
- be at least one year old as of the date you would begin using STEP grant funds
- be new to export or expanding to a new export market
- have a commercialized product or service to export
- be export-ready (see below)
- meet the applicable industry-based small business size standard established under section 3 of the Small Business Act; or the alternate size standard applicable to the program under section 7(a) of the Small Business Act and the loan programs under title V of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958
Global Business Development staff evaluates export readiness based on your company’s ability to:
- meet new customer demand
- provide customer service to foreign buyers
- follow export regulations and certifications
Eligible activities and expenses that qualify include, but are not limited to, the following:
- airfare (consistent with Fly America Act guidelines)
- ground transportation
- baggage fees
- meals and lodging (based on GSA/Department of State per diem rates)
- registration fees and booth space for trade shows
- trade mission fees
- currency exchange fees
- interpreter fees
- fees for shipping sample products (capped at $4,000)
- foreign business-to-business matchmaking services, including the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Gold Key service
- design of marketing media (capped at $6,000)
- website fees, including development, translation, SEO, localization ($10,000)
- compliance testing an existing product to enter into an export market (capped at $6,000)
- subscriptions for applicant export research tool for market research (capped at $2,000)
- trade shows that our office will be attending, you will need to apply during the application window stated in the trade shows section
- other trade shows we are not participating in, you should apply at least four to six weeks before the trade show
- the Global Consultant Network or other international business development activities, you can apply at any time through the application portal
Apply online in the OEDIT application portal. Log in to your account or create a new account. To protect your personal information, we manually add new users to the portal, so it may take several days to activate your account.
Companies need to apply for this grant. No third party consultants, agents, or representatives may apply on behalf of a client company or their own consultant firm.
The online application asks about your company and export project, including:
- your company’s financial health, such as proof of profitability
- what products or services you will export
- why you chose that market
- how you will use the grant funds
- a projected budget for total forecasted expenses and an estimate of your export sales immediately and in six months of using the funds
Market research report
Complete this market research report to explain your decision to enter or expand into the proposed market. Use this Market Research Report Template (PDF) as an example.
Include a detailed budget outlining all expenses for the project.When listing expected personnel and equipment expenses, be as detailed as possible. Category labels such as ‘manufacturing equipment’ and ‘management personnel’ are too generic. Do not include equipment or salaries of personnel that the project team needs for operations outside of this project.
It typically takes us two to three weeks to review applications. A panel reviews all applications.
Companies that win the grant will receive a detailed commitment letter listing the approved export development project or activities, timing, and breakout of approved expenses in U.S. dollars.
Even if your company qualifies for the grant, we may award less funding than you request based on the strength of applications and the number of applicants.
You will submit for reimbursement once your trip is complete. If expenses are not submitted in 30 days, you may not receive funds.
Reimbursements will be paid in full unless the company does not:
- fulfill its obligations for participating in the program
- submit required receipts and summaries
We will send surveys to STEP grantees every six months for up to three years. By applying for the grant, your company agrees to:
- provide information on export sales data related to STEP funding
- respond to all STEP surveys in a timely manner
News and Press Releases
Funded in part by the SBA