State Trade Expansion Program Grant

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 $10,000. 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.

Overview

Type: Grant

For: Small businesses

Amount: Up to $10,000 per year

Application deadline: Rolling

OEDIT division: Global Business Development

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 2022 to 2023 grant period, our Global Business Development staff will attend these trade shows, and we invite eligible companies to apply to join us.

Upcoming trade shows include:

  • Arab Health in Dubai, UAE in January 2023 -- application open
  • Photonics West in San Francisco in January 2023
  • JEC World in Paris, France in April 2023
  • Hannover Messe in Hannover, Germany in April 2023
  • Green Expo in Mexico City, Mexico in September 2023

If you are interested in attending any of these trade shows, contact the program manager with a short description of your company and what trade show you are interested in attending. 

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:

These U.S. Commercial Service programs, all of which are virtual, are eligible for STEP funding.

Market Intelligence

  • Customized Market Research
  • Initial Market Check

Gold Key: Matchmaking Services

  • International Partner Search
  • International Partner Search Plus Virtual Introductions

eCommerce

  • eCommerce Innovation Lab
  • International Company Profile - Full or Partial

In-Country Promotion of Products or Services

  • Single Company Promotion
  • Featured U.S. Exporters Listing

Additional Services

  • Business Service Provider
  • Virtual Fair
  • Official Letter
  • Virtual Introduction

U.S. Commercial Service Programs 

Application Process

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

How to be export-ready

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 expenses

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
  • parking
  • 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 
  • foreign business-to-business matchmaking services, including the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Gold Key service
  • design of marketing media 
  • website fees, including development, translation, SEO, localization 
  • compliance testing an existing product to enter into an export market 
  • subscriptions for applicant export research tool for market research 

Depending on what you plan on using the funds for, you may have different times that you can apply for funding. If you are applying for:

  • 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.

Application materials

Online application

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.

Budget 

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.

Selection process

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.

Award distribution

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

Funded in part by the SBA

U.S. Small Business Administration Logo

 

Program Manager

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