MEMBERTOU, N.S. — As a new business owner, Cory Moore has a lot of questions he needs answered. Specifically, how to target a market and to get his product to those who want and need it.
Moore, who works out of his home in Portage, outside Sydney, has been selling his own line of specially made soaps and skin-care products since early September.
Having spent most of the past two decades outside Nova Scotia – including 12 years living in Germany – he says there will be customers wanting to buy his product online and have it shipped overseas.
“There’s a lot of resources for start-up companies. The exporting (process) isn’t as scary as it seems when you talk to the professionals who do this,” said Moore, 42.
“I’m a start-up. I’m one man so to be able to move on and grow, you need the help of all these guys.”
“These guys” includes import and export professionals who can educate clients about export regulations, country-specific requirements and changes within the industry.
In an effort to streamline the process and bring information directly to small and medium-sized businesses looking to move their products across the country and over international borders, the federal government provided a $135,000 grant to the Cape Breton Partnership in June to launch a two-year pilot program to assist island businesses that want to enter the export market.
At a recent export roundtable at Membertou First Nation, entrepreneurs, including Moore, and economic development officers from a few government agencies such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the Business Development Bank of Canada laid out some of the basics in preparation to market a product or service abroad.
First off, it can be a long process, said Denis Lanoë, vice-president and general manager of Copol International Ltd., a manufacturer of cast polypropylene film for packaging based in North Sydney.
The company currently exports to the United States but has been seeking to expand to South America, possibly to Chile.
By attending trade missions and working with officials on the ground, Lanoë said Copol officials met with 12 to 15 companies in Santiago, Chile’s capital city.
He said a government-organized trade mission made it possible to meet with potential customers.
“It was really well arranged (with) a translator with you all the time, transportation all the time, (and) very good meetings,” he told a group of 12 attending the roundtable discussion.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t done any business with them yet. And really, the only stumbling block has been pricing. We couldn’t get it where we needed to be on pricing but everything else was there.”
Upcoming export roundtables:
- Friday, 8-9:30 a.m., St. Peter’s fire hall
- Friday, 12-1:30 p.m., Potlotek First Nation community hall
- For more information or to sign up for the two remaining sessions, contact the Cape Breton Partnership through its export representative by email - firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 902-217-3065.
For the uninitiated, a businessperson can participate in a trade mission as a “walker” to allow them to get their “feet wet,” to learn the ropes before deciding whether to dive into the world of international shipping, said Wanda MacLean, a development officer with Nova Scotia Business Inc.
Another consideration is building relationships with potential clients but also to those who will help you make those connections, according to Marcato Digital CEO Darren Gallop.
“You need to paint a picture,” said Gallop, who founded the web-based live event management solutions company in Sydney 10 years ago.
“Government employees and people who run these programs have a mandate to treat everybody equal but we’re humans. People get excited about things that are exciting.
“If you can present (your product) as a hot topic, every government employee that works in an area wants to be able to say, ‘Hey, I worked on that project and it was a huge success.’”
He suggested to build connections as best as possible with trade representatives in areas an entrepreneur is looking to do business.
It may include adding the person on LinkedIn, a social media platform for professionals, and finding out if you have mutual connections, and ask that person for a “warm intro,” to the trade official, which may include a short, focused explanation of why your product is important for that particular market, Gallop said.
“That way, you don’t seem like some weird person coming off the street with really bad messaging.”
In Moore’s case, he’s at the beginning stages of setting up his company called Nova Soapia.
He’s making it and selling it out of his house and is in the process of setting up an online shop. To date, he’s used social media to get the word out about his products.
Moore said he highly values mentorship and bouncing ideas off other businesspeople to help him move his business forward.
“I’m a one-man operation. I need help — that’s why I’m here,” he said of the export roundtable.
Learning about the process of exporting including issues surrounding taxation, labelling, and coping with the fluctuating currency markets make for a steep learning curve he’s intent on tackling.
In an attempt to bring more attention to local businesses, Moore is hosting the first Portage Market with other vendors and artisans this Sunday from 12-4 p.m. at 3068 Kings Rd. in Sydney Forks.