SBA Sponsors First U.S./Canada Virtual Trade Mission for WOBs

Why spend thousands to go on a trade mission, when technology lets you cut your deals online?

By Dawn Rivers Baker
Sept. 30, 2000

The U.S. Small Business Administration's Offices of International Trade and Women's Business Ownership, along with the Canadian Consul General posted in Atlanta, Georgia, and the U.S. Department of Commerce, is sponsoring the first-ever Virtual Trade Mission for women-owned businesses.

The virtual trade mission began on September 11, 2000 and will continue until November 16, 2000. The technological platform for the mission is being provided by Tradebuilders, a Washington D.C.-based firm that is in the business of offering affordable B2B global e-commerce opportunities.

Women-owned businesses in the health care and business services industries that are located in five southern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee) are eligible to participate. Through the virtual trade mission, they will make contact with their counterparts in the Toronto area of Canada to pursue mutually beneficial business relationships.

Participating businesses are charged a very small fee upon application (US$50 and Can$74), which is much more affordable for most small and/or home-based women owned businesses than the $2-3,000 price tag (plus travel and accommodation expenses) that comes along with participation in traditional Commerce Department overseas trade missions.

The benefits of the mission are many, including not only making possible trade contacts among other women-owned businesses but also making contacts among relevant government entities, organizations, trade intermediars, etc. The learning experience alone is worth the cost; even without concluding any deals in writing, the virtual trade mission seems a good opportunity to get one's feet wet in the sea of global trade.

As of now, key target dates for the two month virtual trade mission include:

This virtual trade mission is a follow-up to a May, 1999 mission to Toronto, Canada, led by SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez, and she is naturally excited about this two-month affair. "The U.S.-Canada virtual trade mission will demonstrate a cutting-edge, cost-effective way of building international commerce and forging new business relationships," she said in a recent press release. "This innovative use of technology will help small businesses 'go global' at a fraction of the cost of traditional trade missions."

Qualified business owners can apply to participate in the U.S.-Canada virtual trade mission by visiting the Tradebuilders website, filling out the form and submitting their payment via the secure online ordering form provided. According to Tradebuilders' Executive VP Elizabeth Vazquez, applications are expected to remain open until the videoconference takes place on October 23, 2000.

Meanwhile, additional Tradebuilders Virtual Trade Missions (TVMs) are planned for next year and, while they are not specifically for women-owned businesses, they may be worth a look-in if you are in these particular industry sectors and/or are interested in expanding into these markets:

January 29, 2001 through March 30, 2001 - India-U.S. TVM, co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration and three top business associations in India:

This trade mission will focus on the electronics and information technology industries and, while it is not intended specifically for women owned small businesses, on the Indian side, women-owned business organizations are certainly well represented. The cost of the virtual trade mission is, again, US$50 and the video conference portion of the trade mission is currently scheduled for early March.

In addition, another virtual trade mission is tentatively scheduled to take place with participating government and business entities from Singapore, although there is no information currently available at the Tradebuilders website to indicate that there will be any U.S. federal government agencies involved.

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