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SHERIDAN — Two Sheridan companies were among five Wyoming firms to graduate from a recent workshop aimed at increasing their capacity for international exports.
Representatives from EMIT Technologies and Tom Balding Bits and Spurs traveled to Casper last month to participate in Wyoming ExporTech, a customized workshop that enabled them to create a plan to export their products and then have it reviewed by a panel of experts.
Wyoming ExporTech is a collaborative effort of the Wyoming Business Council, Manufacturing Works and the Small Business Administration’s Development Center.
Cindy Garretson-Weibel, agribusiness director at the Wyoming Business Council, said the workshop helps businesses build an export plan from the ground up.
“We put them in contact with a host of resources — everything from marketing to finding a freight forwarder to financing options,” she said. “We also assign them a coach who encourages them and provides answers to questions and sort of prods them along.”
The Sheridan businesses met with advisors monthly for three months in order to formulate a marketing plan. The project culminated with a three-day expert review of their newly formed strategies. Garretson-Weibel said each export thesis was as unique as the companies themselves.
“The products themselves are wide and varied,” she said. “One of the benefits of the program is it helps companies pinpoint what countries make sense for their products and companies, as that’s one of their biggest challenges.”
Tom Balding, who has been marketing his workmanship in Europe for some time, said the venture has opened new doors he wouldn’t have considered before, including the possibility of sharing Sheridan’s cowboy culture with fashionistas in Japan.
“Western clothing is popular over there, so we’re actually looking at the spurs as a fashion statement as an accessory to western boots,” Balding said. “It might be fun to have some really colorful, exotic-looking spurs that don’t necessarily have to be worn at a rodeo.”
Balding admitted it would be a tough sell, but he said he now feels he has the know-how and connections to make it a real possibility. He said he has also gained a new prospective niche for his wares in Australia, Sweden and Canada.
Jay Stender, executive director of Forward Sheridan, said courting customers beyond the boundaries of Sheridan reinforces economic stability for individual businesses and the community.
“The ability to market and transact businesses outside of the U.S. provides notoriety and a diversity of income,” he said.
Stender added that foreign customers often become tourists to the birthplaces of their favorite products.
Balding agreed the far-reaching impacts of international marketing may seem like a long shot, but he added that the potential benefits are worth the work.
“If you never take the shot, you’ll never make the basket,” he said.
Desirae Barkan, Balding’s marketing manager, said even though the workshop is over, the support for their new expansion project remains available.
“The more important thing we walked away with is networking that’s going to last for years to come,” she said.
“If we had tried to do it on our own or had to pay for a consultation like this, it would have cost us thousands of dollars,” Balding said. “If we were in a state that involved more manufacturing and exporting, there would have been no way we could have the personalized, focused attention we got. I felt really lucky to live in Wyoming where a small business can get that kind of quality help. “
This year marks the second season ExporTech has been available to Wyoming companies, and the Wyoming Business Council is still in the process of following up with graduates to see if they were able to capitalize on international exportation. However, Garretson-Weibel indicated preliminary assessments look optimistic.
“I know companies (who completed ExporTech) have exported to a larger extent,” she said.
Representatives of Wyoming ExporTech are planning to host another session next spring.