MU International Trade Center interns connect with clients, provide actionable research
The University of Missouri’s International Trade Center is a partnership of the University of Missouri Extension Business Development Program (BDP)’s Missouri Small Business Technology & Development Centers (MO SBTDC) and the University of Missouri Trulaske College of Business. Working with the college, the International Trade Center created an international market research intern program in fall 2014. This program allows students to engage in real-world, hands-on, practical learning projects while giving participating firms solid research they can then use to grow exports.
Four project teams consisting of 16 students supervised by a graduate assistant and supported by International Trade Center staff members and trade counselors spent months researching possible new markets for four BDP clients this winter and spring. This involved visiting these firms multiple times and analyzing hundreds of countries for business friendliness, IP protection laws, population, GDP, growth in that firm’s product line and a host of other criteria.
The student teams then presented before these firm’s top executives in late April, complete with in-depth spreadsheets, in-depth country and industry analysis and potential in-country partners. In every case, hundreds of countries were narrowed down to just a handful, helping the firm better focus its efforts.
The firms included:
- Halcyon Shades, St. Louis, which manufactures innovative UV-blocking shades. See our story on Halcyon.
- HY-C Company, Inc., St. Louis, which manufactures household heating and fireplace devices. See our story on HY-C.
- Tacony Manufacturing, St. James, a manufacturer of vacuum cleaning products.
- 2BuyAg, Columbia, a startup launching a web application that connects agricultural producers with buyers. See our story on 2BuyAg.
These firms are also clients or are contemplating using the services of the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (MO PTAC), another BDP program which helps businesses obtain federal, state and local government contracts; and the BDP’s Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (TAAC), a cost share grant program which helps manufacturers in four states respond to import competition.
So how did it go?
“We’ve always wanted to do international sales,” says Rich Goellner, president of Halcyon Shades. “We honestly doubted it (our ability to export) a little bit … we just didn’t know where to go.
“The students here at the University of Missouri Trulaske College of Business were instrumental in analyzing markets, and they came up with some superb recommendations.” He adds he’s identified one particular country of great promise.
“It’s not just a study where they give you the information and it’s over,” Goellner adds, referring to ongoing International Trade Center support and its rich network of partners. “I never realized how much help is available from the state of Missouri to help small companies like mine do business overseas. It’s really encouraging.”
Goellner refers to the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s DED’s International Trade and Investment Office, members of whom previously consulted with Halcyon and are also actively aiding the firm; MO STEP=UP, an SBA-funded program administered by the International Trade and Investment Office that helps defray the costs of foreign sales trips, trade shows, translation services and other exporting expenditures; and other programs.
The MU International Trade Center’s goal is to promote economic development and help Missouri businesses export while providing University of Missouri students, tomorrow’s business leaders, opportunities for real-world research, presentation and networking. See how the International Trade Center can help your firm market abroad.
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