Raul Santoya and his co-founders run Skymo, a manufacturer of specialty cleaners and degreasers that are safe for the environment. Their initial target market is the aviation industry.
“It was at an aviation trade show in 2015 where we discovered the huge opportunity in aviation for products that work but are also good for the environment,” said Santoya, CFO and government vendor contracting officer for Skymo. The company is a client of the Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center within the FIU College of Business. After a year of development and building out a manufacturing facility in Medley, Skymo opened in 2017.
At a trade show in 2017, the team received interest from international businesses and sent some samples to companies in a couple of countries.
That’s often how companies get started in exporting — they take advantage of an opportunity that presents itself, says Shelly Bernal, an SBDC at FIU consultant who specializes in export.
But what these businesses really need is a strategic plan for exporting, she says.
Fortunately for Skymo, the company heard about SBDC at FIU at about the same time and began working with some of the consultants, including Bernal, who put together an extensive export marketing plan for them. The process took about two months, as part of a state program involving the Florida SBDC Network and Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency. Skymo paid $500 for the service, but the rest – $3,500 – was paid by a scholarship through Enterprise Florida.
The plan included deep market research (demand by country, GDP growth, regulations, trade flow data, currency fluctuations, etc). Using the research, Bernal and Skymo tried to define what would set up an environment for more potential for success. Then they prioritized the markets and appropriate channels within the supply chain. “The idea is they can use the plan coupled with their own experience to make the best decisions for their company.”
Once a manufacturing company like Skymo has this plan (Skymo’s was about 100 pages) and it is implemented, there are a host of other resources through the state’s Gold Key Services available through the state’s Enterprise Florida agency. These include a reimbursed matchmaking service that helps companies meet with potential partners and customers in the countries, and another that reimburses for half of trade show booth costs. There’s also a reimbursement program for website localization development, Bernal said.
“We are very lucky in the State of Florida that the Legislature has set aside what I consider a significant gift of money for these services … that support these companies to grow faster than they otherwise would and grow jobs,” Bernal said.
Santoya, who is also working on an MBA from FIU, said the planning process helped Skymo restructure its focus, identify its initial target markets for exports and strategically narrow down its distribution avenues. After the initial markets are doing well, the company will work on expanding geographically as well as adding to the product line, all according to the strategic plan. “The whole process has been great,” he said.
Santoya has also taken advantage of other services available from SBDC at FIU, including exploring government contracting for domestic sales.
“As a small business company, we don’t have all the answers. We are small. Once I learned about SBDC, with 16 expert advisors all willing to help you, it’s amazing to have an institution like that backing you up and helping you out,” said Santoya, who previously ran an IT services company.
“The value we’ve received,” he said, “you can’t put a price on it.”
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