How can the Office of International Relations help small businesses take over the world? Alexis Gordon, the International Relations Manager at the City of Charlotte has the answer!
Andrew: Good morning, Charlotte entrepreneurs. I’m Andrew Bowen, and I am your host of CBR’s B2U Podcast, bringing business resources directly to you.
Last time, we ended part two of our three part conversation with Alexis Gordon, the International Relations Manager at the City of Charlotte. You can find it at CBRbiz.com. Welcome back, Alexis.
Alexis: Thanks for having me back. I’m so excited to talk about this topic.
Andrew: We’re very happy to have you. Listeners, everyone in this recording room can tell you that I’ve been on the edge of my seat to get started on today’s topic, which is…drum roll, please…How can the Office of International Relations help small businesses take over the world?
So, before we get started. Alexis, what are we doing tonight?
Alexis: What do we do every night, Andrew?
Andrew: We try to take over the world.
Andrew: Yes, okay, anybody who wasn’t sure what that was, that was a Pinky and the Brain joke. I’m glad we were able to sneak that one in there.
Alright, Alexis. What do you say? How can you help businesses expand to global markets?
Alexis: Let’s put it this way. A lot of people think:
“This is my market. This is where I am. I’m going to sell my goods and services here in Charlotte, and the world is a big, scary place because it’s huge. I don’t speak Chinese. I don’t speak Japanese. I don’t speak German. Where am I going to sell my products other than maybe England and Australia?”
Well, I’ll tell you, if you want to, you can also sell them in South Africa. They speak English. Quite a few countries, actually, and there are other things as well. It’s not just about languages. When you want to sell abroad, there are a lot of different pieces to it, and that can be very scary to a small business owner.
They look at the big companies that sell things abroad. They look at Apple. They look at these places where you are selling things, and they go, “How do I even get into that market? How do I let someone know about the things I have?”
Well, that’s what our office is here for. We’re here to connect you to the right people to help make sure that you can sell your goods and services abroad. And we want you to know that it’s not that scary. That in today’s world with the technology that we have, we are really able to sell anything anywhere.
There’s that old saying, “I could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo.” Well, it’s not that simple. But there are a lot of ways that you can expand to new markets.
Andrew: Yeah, because the world is getting…it’s globalizing and just because people move here…Businesses serve more than just people who walk in anymore. Right?
Alexis: Exactly. And with the Internet, you can buy something in Tokyo and have it shipped here. For example, I bought my bicycle. I’m very partial to my city bike that I bought from the Netherlands, and I actually bought it from a small business in England that has the bikes made in Holland and then shipped anywhere in the world that someone wants to buy it.
Andrew: So where did Tokyo come in on that? Oh, you were in Tokyo when you purchased it?
Alexis: Not this time.
Alexis: That must have been another story.
Andrew: That’s okay.
Alexis: Not to be shared on the radio.
Andrew: Yeah. That sounds good. Oh, but speaking of stories. So the really large industrial trade fair that has happened in Germany this year…Apparently one of our favorite small businesses here in Charlotte, Old Mecklenburg Brewery, got to ship their German purity law-made beer to the Mecklenburg region of Germany to be drank at this industrial fair. How fascinating was that?
Alexis: Yeah. Andrew, it is one of the largest trade fairs in Europe. And it’s really amazing to hear we have this homegrown favorite that is being showcased there. We had the Charlotte Chambers there with a large trade delegation, so is the Charlotte regional partnership with their trade delegation, and Old Meck Brewery brought cases of beer. And on top of that it’s like the 600th anniversary of the German beer purity laws. And so it’s really cool to have a Charlotte beer being showcased in Germany at this huge trade fair for everyone to see.
And so it’s that simple. I mean, to be able to show the world what we have.
Andrew: Yeah. We completed the circle in the truest sense of the word.
Alexis: We did.
Andrew: Or we completed the sphere I guess.
Alexis: The sphere.
Andrew: Right. So I know that was a little bit off topic. So other than that, what kind of specific resources can you point people to when they’re looking to say, not that I’ve necessarily outgrown Charlotte, but I want to expand beyond Charlotte. Because I think those are two very different things, right? You can’t outgrow Charlotte. Charlotte just continues to grow, right?
Alexis: Yeah, Charlotte continues to grow. I don’t think we’ll be able to outpace our growth right now. Knock on wood. Hopefully we keep it going that way, but you might be interested in just expanding into new markets. Diversifying who your customers are. And so what we can do is you can talk to us about what you have to sell, or what services you might be providing. We can set you up to test your products and your ideas with ex-pats, so expatriates who live here from another country. Who might be here working for a bank. Who might be here working for a German manufacturer. And we can also have you talk to immigrants who’ve moved here from a market that you’re interested in. Connect them with that community so we can see if this product is something that might work.
Or if you need to change the color or change the name. We’ve all heard the famous one about Chevy Nova. You know, No-va, no go. Not going to sell a car in Spanish speaking countries, that’s called the no go. So if you want to test those ideas out with natives, we have those people here in Charlotte. And we’d love to help you connect with the community and kind of test your ideas and your products. The other thing that we can do is we can set you up if you need to know maybe more information about how the governments work, how does business work in that country? We have over 20 diplomatic representatives in North Carolina from across the world.
Andrew: That’s great. I didn’t realize we had that many.
Alexis: Yeah. We have one full consulate currently from Mexico in Raleigh, and then in Charlotte we have over a dozen honorary consuls from places like Germany, of course, and also we have the Czech Republic is represented here. We also have Guatemala. We have many honorary consuls who would be happy to talk to you about the country that they represent and the different regulations that they might have. And if they don’t know, they can connect you straight with a consulate that’s closest to us to discuss those needs–and are there visas that are needed to go do business travel–they’ll be able to help you with all those things.
The other really big resource that we have in Charlotte–and that we’re really kind of very proud of–I would say one of our jewels in the crown–is we have an export assistance center. It’s over on Morehead, and that export assistance center is actually part of the US Department of Commerce. And they will help you go on what’s called the gold key trip. So if there is a specific country you’re interested in, they will help take you to that country.
Another thing we have is we have a partnership with USTDA, which is the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. And they will do what’s called reverse trade missions. So they’ll bring people who are maybe interested in buying parts to build an electric infrastructure, or they’re looking for turbines. And they’ll bring them here and show them different vendors that we have. So that you don’t have to go to Malaysia, but we’ll bring Malaysians to you, so you can talk to them about the businesses that you want. Always be on the lookout for those opportunities because we have them in Charlotte.
Another thing that we have is just to help you understand some of those acronyms like USTDA and EXIM Bank. Somebody’s like, “What’s the EXIM Bank?” And well that’s the export import bank.
Andrew: EXIM not EXEM.
Alexis: Not AXIM. And so those are the kinds of things that we’re here to help for as well. And so we also try to bring those groups in. We’re actually going to have EXIM Bank in Charlotte in June, so that people can talk about what does the bank do? How do they help? What kind of insurance might you need? What kind of documents might you need? Because that’s another thing, is that people are like, “Wow, do I have to fill the whole container?”
Not necessarily. You can use FedEx. Same way that you would to ship something to California. You can ship all the away to Australia the same way. So there are a lot of different resources that we can help you connect with.
Andrew: That’s super. So large or small, Pinky and the Brain, taking over the world one step at a time.
Alexis: One step at a time.
Andrew: Alright. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Alexis: Just not to be afraid. You know, a lot of times people are really worried. That, you know, how do I…how do I take over the world? How do I spread my business and be the next big thing globally? And it’s just like you said, one step at a time. Just reach out, and we’ll help you connect.
Andrew: That’s great. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Alexis. I think our listeners will agree that this has been one of the most informative series yet.
Listeners, if you missed the first two parts of our conversation with Alexis Gordon, I encourage you to go find them at CBRbiz.com. Thanks for tuning in to CBR’s B2U Podcast. Presented by CBRbiz.com. Until next time, we mean business.