The Organization of Women in International Trade hosted a local forum in Bentonville tonight (April 17) that featured three women entrepreneurs running Arkansas companies.
Christine Meier, co-owner of Canvas Corp., Rachel Cox of Conway Machines and Kimberly Hinkle, co-owner of Harvest Fresh Farm, each shared their unique business insight with more than two dozen OWIT members and guests.
Each of the family-owned ventures sees huge potential in export markets as a way to grow the business, but said finding distributors and getting started takes some work - though definitely worthwhile.
Meier said she also sources some of her raw materials from abroad if it is the quality she wants. For instance, she said burlap, made in America, does not compare in quality to burlap she can source from China.
“It’s not about saving money, because it’s more expense than local sources, but clearly a higher grade, which is what we want,” Meier told the group.
Canvas Corp. exports to 27 countries in addition to supplying the biggest craft stores in the U.S. - Hobby Lobby and Michaels.
Cox said her family business, a manufacturer of die cutters and packaging company, began focusing on export sales after the deep recession in 2008.
She said today almost 20% of the company’s total sales are made up of exports and she will soon be attending a large trade show in Dusseldorf, Germany in hopes of expanding that footprint. At this juncture Cox has clients throughout Europe, Canada and India.
Hinkle has already secured a pretty good gig in the U.S.supplying a fresh herb product line to Walmart - under a private label. But her name brand - Harvest Fresh Farm - is also sold in Panama and Canada along with specialty food stores in the U.S.
One interesting observation by the three panelists is that not a single one of them set out to do business abroad - but each said it has been well worth the effort to get export certified