Opportunities abound for small business owners abroad. But it takes creativity, ingenuity and that pioneering spirit to tackle the wide world of importing and exporting. Equally important, it requires building the right network of contacts and gathering the appropriate research.
This has certainly been the case for August Bishop L.L.C., a New York-based, black-owned firm that provides marketing, publicity and promotional management. The fledgling company, with projected sales of more than $100,000, handles international sales for Indigo New York, a new monthly fashion magazine. Right now, the owners are looking to open up distribution for the magazine in clothing and music stores throughout Japan, the U.K., Canada, Germany and Italy.
The first order of business was to go right to the source. "We contacted people who owned clothing and record stores in the countries where we wanted to do business," says the 22-year-old CEO, Dexter Wimberly. "We asked what the music and fashion scenes were like--which magazines were selling well, which ones weren't and why."
While there is no substitute for conventional research, "we made sure to tap personal resources," notes Barney A. Bishop, 24, the firm's president. "Nothing can replace that one-on-one contact, getting firsthand accounts from someone who actually lives there and understands what the culture is like."
Bishop and Wimberly also work with a major distribution company in Japan. The enterprising partners, who met while students at New York's Brooklyn College, work on a commission basis and serve as agents to help the foreign entity purchase U.S. goods, mostly clothing.
As for many business owners new to the export game, managing costs is a major issue. One of the main complaints made regarding export is that products are not received in a timely fashion. Shipping items abroad can be very costly.
To stay on top of this area, the firm uses shipping services. "We needed to find a way to get the magazines there [closer to the U. S. publishing date] and at the same time keep the costs low," says Wimberly. "Since we...