By Russell Grantham
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
When Erica Barrett launched her own food company three years ago after winning a cooking contest, she had no idea she’d someday be selling her gourmet pancake mixes in Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
“I never imagined us working with exports,” said the 31-year old entrepreneur as workers at her small factory near Avondale Estates, Ga., scooped blueberry pancake mix into pint-sized cartons that might soon appear on QVC’s TV shopping network or store shelves in Dubai.
“Now we look at ourselves on a global basis,” she said. “We want to compete with the big boys.”
Spring-boarding off the domestic economy’s recovery since the Great Recession, small firms like Barrett’s 20-employee company, Southern Culture Artisan Foods, have been taking the plunge overseas to take advantage of rising incomes and demand for American foods and other products, experts say.
Online marketing has made it easier for even the tiniest firms to reach customers on the other side of the globe. Also, many firms in the U.S. are being helped along the way by an array of federal and state government programs that provide market research, advice, loans, insurance, subsidies to attend international trade shows and other aid.
Owners of small businesses “have thought for so long that exports are only for the big businesses. What we’re saying is that’s not necessarily true anymore,” said Terri Denison, Georgia district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration in Atlanta.