We hear regularly from small companies eager to do business abroad. Now comes a letter from a reader keen on helping such companies, who's finding it more difficult than you'd think. Our other queries this month come from start-up entrepreneurs. One seeks advice on protecting her idea; another finds her start-up stymied by banks' inaccessibility. And finally, what can you do about those trade-show-dues blues?
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I have many contacts on four continents, and a year ago I decided to use those contacts to sell U.S.-made goods overseas. By good luck more than anything else, I found two manufacturers whose goods I have sold in Britain and Australia and am testing products in South Africa and Japan. I want to find other small companies interested in exporting, but I don't know where to look. The press and politicians harp on U.S. small manufacturers finding markets overseas, but neither the government nor manufacturers know how to do the job. When I've approached government agencies, they have had no listings of companies that wish to export. So how do I locate them? Does anyone know where I should look next?
Donald V. Clark
Don Clark & Associates
Basking Ridge, N.J.
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Show and Sell
As my four-year-old begins his journey through the world of homework, I want to stay home, but I still want to earn an income. My child's nursery-school show-and-tell inspired me to design a poster I plan to sell through direct mail. I have marketing experience and some ideas about distribution, but I'm concerned about potential legal issues. I plan to obtain a resale license and business license and open a post-office box for orders. Are there any details I've overlooked? Also, can I copyright a design? Are there publications that can answers these and other questions for me?
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After two years of market research, I'm ready to run with my mail-order women's apparel business. But I need to open an account to handle my customers' credit-card orders. I have contacted several banks in my area, but they don't maintain mail-order merchant accounts. I don't know where else to try. That is making it impossible for me to serve my customers completely. Does anyone have any suggestions?
Trendy Image Catalog
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My start-up imports furniture and handicrafts from China for wholesale at gifts-and-accessories trade shows. At our last trade show, the management banished my company and all other new exhibitors to a secondary building across town from the main exhibition hall, among warehouses and canneries. Predictably, traffic at the second hall was a fraction of the main building's. Our sales made up only two-thirds of our show expenses. Can anyone suggest a way around these unprofitable secondary shows and sites? I can't afford to lose money at every show for the next two years until I've paid my dues and get to exhibit with the big boys. Is this practice a recent phenomenon? How have other start-ups handled such a situation?