A recent survey of 5,000 small business owners in the U.S. shows tremendous growth in exporting interest and activity. The survey, conducted by the National Small Business Association (NSBA) and the Small Business Exporters Association (SBEA) found a significant change over the course of 3 years:

  • 12% increase in actual exporting: 64% of small businesses have sold goods or services to a customer outside of the U.S., compared to 52% in 2010.
  • 20% greater interest in exporting: 63% of small businesses who don’t export are now interested in exporting their goods or services, up from 43% in 2010.

Amongst those small businesses that do not export goods yet, the barriers seem to be minimizing:

  • In 2010, 49% of small businesses sold un-exportable goods/services, but in 2013 the number dropped to 30%—This may reflect a trend towards creating more readily exportable products.
  • Only 20% of small businesses feel exporting is too costly, down from 29% back in 2010.

Small businesses that already export also seem to be experiencing an overall rise in exports since 2010:

  • 27% of small businesses sell goods to Canada, the most popular exporting destination—up 11% from 16% in 2010.
  • 56% of small businesses have seen a total increase in their export volume over the past year, up from 46% in 2010.

These numbers show a staggering increase in exporting initiatives amongst small businesses, which may be surprising considering the economy. Does the survey really represent smaller, bootstrapped businesses? Of all the different small businesses that responded to the survey, the largest demographic of respondents:

  • Worked for a company with only 1-4 employees
  • Reported less than $100,000 a year in total payroll expenses

While more and more companies are choosing to go global, there are still difficulties for small businesses that dabble in exporting. For one, a whopping 41% of companies that export still worry about getting paid. And almost a third of them still feel that exporting is confusing and difficult.

Challenges aside, small businesses are exporting at an increasing rate, and their momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing. In an increasingly globalized economy, many small businesses who didn’t consider exporting in the past are now contemplating this path as a way to get ahead, or at least, keep up with the competition.

Source: NSBA