Small Business

e-Report is a monthly e-publication by the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA) designed to provide insight and advice on operating a successful small business in today’s nonwovens industry. An article in the second issue states that, for most smaller nonwovens companies, penetration in a foreign market, especially one like Asia where the language and cultural barriers are so high, is sometimes just not worth the effort. While directed toward the nonwovens industry, the points made in the article hold true for small business operations in general.

The article recommends that before you commit to doing business abroad, whether to Asia, South America or Europe, you ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I have the resources to make a long-term commitment overseas?

Opening foreign markets can be like pouring money down a well if you don’t do it right.

Advice: Hook up with someone on the ground in the targeted country, and make sure you can trust that person.

2. Do you have the capacity to move overseas? One of the worst things that can happen is to be successful opening a new market, but then not be able to ship your product. You end up wasting everyone’s time and your money.

Advice: Do some serious forecasting. If there is an oversupply, then consider exporting as a viable alternative. If supply is already spoken for, you’re better off staying home and enjoying your own backyard.

3. Do you like to travel for weeks at a time? Especially at the beginning, foreign expansion means foreign travel. Trips to Asia and even Europe are not “over-the-weekend” and “maybe-I’ll-do-a-little-sightseeing-in-my-spare-time” jaunts. These are hard-working trips that, especially to Asia, last a minimum of 10 days.

Advice: Prepare yourself for that commitment, or hire someone who will.

4. Finally, are you willing to adapt to local business cultures? The way we do business in the United States does not work everywhere. In fact, it hardly works anywhere except in North America. Don’t be an ugly American.

Advice: Learn how your new markets do business. Better yet, partner with a local business or consultant that will hold your hand through the process.

To learn more about INDA or its Small Business e-Report, contact the organization at PO Box 1288, Cary, NC, 27512-1288; phone 919-233-1210; fax 919-233-1282; or log onto its Web site at

In addition, INDA’s International Nonwovens Directory in now online. Even the smallest company can now get information about nonwovens companies all over the world, and the information is continuously updated. To subscribe, contact Cindy Garcia at