The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC) offers a variety of ways to help small businesses grow. But what if a business wants to enter international markets? That’s when the UGA SBDC utilizes its export training program, ExportGA.
Russell Rainey, owner of Rainey Apparel Manufacturing in Clarkston, was ready to sell his product globally but didn’t know where to start. When he heard the UGA SBDC had resources that could help, he turned to them for advice and training.
Rainey, an inventor and entrepreneur, began designing and producing surgical compressing garments in 1998 after a friend, Atlanta dermatologist Dr. Edmund Griffin, described the type of compression wear his patients needed for healing. As liposuction and plastic surgery procedures advanced, so did Rainey’s products. While domestic sales grew, the demand for his product was growing internationally as well. But he wasn’t sure how best to enter those markets.
“When you own a business and are trying to take it higher, you often hit a glass ceiling,” said Rainey. “After running my business nearly 25 years, I was hitting that ceiling and trying to understand how to expand and grow my business internationally.”
“I would go to plastic surgery conferences and meet doctors from different countries,” said Rainey. “Many were interested in our product and would refer us to their distributors, informally, but these were not the leads we sought out. We had no idea of their quality or expertise. The UGA SBDC helped us know when we were talking to a good potential partner.”
Rainey was in the early stages of designing garments for a doctor in England when he began working with Kloussiadis.
“After assessing Rainey’s financial and business capabilities, I realized his business had the potential to be very successful internationally provided he goes about it intentionally,” Kloussiadis said.
Kloussiadis also recommended Rainey attend ExportGA, an intensive four-session, 16-hour export training program that helps export-ready companies develop these skills and use them throughout the program to identify new international sales opportunities.
“ExportGA was very enlightening,” Rainey said. “It allowed me to broaden my thinking on how to approach exporting from a CEO position. The things they laid out that I needed to consider, like precautionary measures I hadn’t thought about, gave me a full reading on the best approach.”
The training also helped Rainey firm up his distributor relationships, helping him improve their quality and position himself to gain the best partners going forward.
Kloussiadis provided Rainey with a wealth of international market and company information using UGA SBDC resources. They conducted a detailed market feasibility study, prioritized the top three markets and examined the entry requirements for Rainey’s garments. They examined pricing and shipping costs to determine competitive rates, then looked at standards and registration requirements. They identified overseas competitors and worked with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce to identify quality distributors abroad.
No detail was too minor to address.
“For example, we worked paragraph-by-paragraph, line-by-line on drafting and negotiating international marketing agreements to establish overseas distribution,” Kloussiadis said.
Since working with the UGA SBDC, Rainey Apparel Manufacturing has landed distributors in the United Kingdom and China while expanding sales with clients in Qatar, UAE and Kuwait. More than half of his sales are now international.
“This rise in sales means we’re ramping up,” Rainey said. “I’m interviewing now for a new office manager, and I will onboard new sales and operational persons who are joining us next week. My work with the UGA SBDC has definitely had an impact on my growing staff. And even there, I’ve received their counsel. Their assistance is comprehensive.”
Rainey’s latest venture with the UGA SBDC is attending the GrowSmart class.
“GrowSmart is extraordinary,” Rainey said. “I’m with a group of business owners of all kinds, and everyone is willing to share their information. Trusted information. This experience is timely. I’ve been working inside the business, and now I know I need to work on the business.”
For More Information: University of Georgia SBDC | (706) 542-2762