Kootenay businesses achieve international success with Export Navigator

How small businesses are finding new customers in changing times

As a year of uncertainty continues, it has become more critical than ever for small businesses to find creative ways to succeed, and many are turning to Export Navigator for advice and support. Operating across B.C., the free Export Navigator Program has been helping businesses grow since 2016 — now, it’s stepping in to help businesses like Popov Leather from Nelson to innovate and adapt.

Export Navigator is a free program that connects business owners with a local export advisor who can help them find new customers beyond B.C. From growth planning to information about exporting, business owners across the province have applied free advisor support to expand with confidence.

Throughout the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the advisors at Export Navigator have been helping businesses find ways to pivot and succeed in the face of new challenges — such as taking advantage of e-commerce platforms and learning how to access government funding resources. With more businesses turning to the program, its success stories now span a range of industries and countries.

Honorable Minister Mungall, responsible for the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, believes it’s the local aspect of Export Navigator that has been fundamental to its success in helping small businesses:

“As a resident of a rural community, I see so many innovative people creating products and services that deserve wider distribution. Every business and every community is different, and I think that’s why Export Navigator’s regional approach has been so valuable.”

Nelson-based export advisor Michael Hoher has been working with businesses across the Kootenays to help them export. One of Michael’s success stories is Popov Leather, an artisan leather wallet and belt manufacturer based out of Nelson. Since 85 per cent of Popov’s sales came from outside of Canada, founder Ryan Popoff knew that exporting was fundamental to the success and resilience of his business, but he required expert guidance to ensure that he was following the best practices of complicated foreign market regulations — and that’s where Michael bridged the knowledge gap. Armed with new insight on how to protect his international growth, Popov founder Ryan successfully optimized his export strategy and made his business more resilient.

“Michael helped direct me towards areas of focus that I would not have realized, such as taking into consideration cultural differences when approaching distant markets or foreign market requirements for importing goods, such as labeling.”

From solo startups with a small customer base to larger corporations that already export to some select markets, Export Navigator is available to businesses of all sizes in the Kootenays and across B.C.

To continue helping businesses in the Kootenay Region, the free program is accepting online applications. To support underrepresented groups, businesses owned by Indigenous Peoples, women, and youth can expect specialized support and are also encouraged to apply.

Export Navigator gratefully acknowledges that we live, work, and play on the traditional territories of the Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia.

Small Business

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