STEP program expands funding for small businesses

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Eligible Kentucky small businesses can now receive even more funding to help them begin exporting or expand their export market through the State Trade Expansion Program.

Each company selected may now receive up to $10,000 in grant funding, twice the amount available the past several years. Businesses previously awarded a $5,000 grant in the FY2018 cycle, now have an additional $5,000 to use by Sept. 29.

STEP grants provide businesses reimbursement for a variety of trade-related costs, including travel expenses, market research and matchmaking, translation services, export education, trade advisory services, compliance, international marketing media design and other associated costs.

SkiSkootys, a Louisville family owned startup, used STEP funding to establish international markets for its slip-on ski-boot soles. Using STEP funds, Reid Lawler, SkiSkootys vice president, traveled to Beijing in September as part of a Snowsports Industries America trade mission to China.

China’s winter sports industry is expected to reach $87 billion by 2020, well before it hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics. China’s central government estimates the Winter Olympics potentially will create millions of winter-sports enthusiasts in China, significantly increasing demand for equipment and apparel.

Athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea used SkiSkootys between skiing events, putting the Kentucky-made product on a global stage. SkiSkootys is just one of hundreds of STEP success stories from companies throughout Kentucky.

The company now anticipates another trip to Beijing with the support of the additional $5,000 in STEP funding.

Kentucky awarded nearly $240,000 in STEP grants to 68 businesses throughout 2018. Cultivating global demand for Kentucky-made goods and services allows STEP to help businesses not only expand their outreach worldwide, but also to create more jobs throughout the commonwealth.

Kentucky small business owners are encouraged to apply now for STEP grants, as this year’s grant cycle began in October 2018.

No deadline for 2019 applications has been set, but the sooner businesses apply, the more time they will have to use their grant money. Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

STEP is a US Small Business Administration program administered in the commonwealth by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

About $700,000 in funding is currently available to help boost international sales of Kentucky’s more than 340,000 small businesses, which make up 96.5 percent of all businesses in the commonwealth and employ nearly 700,000 Kentuckians. Around $300,000 of FY2018’s funding remains available, combined with about $400,000 for the current FY2019.

Companies that meet the federally defined criteria of a small business and will export products that are at least 51 percent US content could be eligible for a grant.

STEP also aligns with the Kentucky Export Initiative (KEI). Through KEI, the Cabinet partners with a coalition of agencies and organizations. KEI streamlines and promotes the state’s efforts to help Kentucky businesses reach global markets.

Learn more about the STEP program and apply here. Email completed applications to STEP Program Director Carol Stringer at carol.stringer@ky.gov. Find out more about Kentucky’s exporting efforts at www.KyExports.com.

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