FunShine Express of Dickinson, ND has set their sights on Canada after recently completing ExporTech, a national export training program taking place in North Dakota with collaboration from the North Dakota Trade Office, U.S. Commercial Service, and Impact Dakota.
FunShine Express writes and distributes early learning curriculum to child care providers and preschools. Although the company has been in business for over 20 years, and sells to all 50 states, exporting has been “hit or miss” with a very small percentage of sales volume sold to international customers. FunShine Express joined ExporTech looking to educate themselves on proactive exporting.
“We know the product has international appeal,” said Beth Ehlis, president of FunShine Express. “We just needed to know where to start.”
FunShine Express participated in ExporTech throughout this past winter, attending three sessions of customized training, spaced one month apart. The goal of the program is to create a unique international growth plan for each participating company by way of detailed instruction, individual coaching, and research.
FunShine Express’s international growth plan includes an initial focus on Canada. Canada was chosen after collaborative research guided by the U.S. Commercial Service revealed key data that was inserted into a unique matrix designed for the company. Seventy countries were considered, with Canada at the top of the list of four promising markets. Canada had been on the company’s radar for quite some time, but several obstacles stood in the way. One was a high cost of shipping. FunShine Express sells research-based early learning kits, or “lesson plans in a box” that include curriculum guides, arts and craft supplies, theme displays, puzzles, games and books that are subject to high shipping and Canadian customs fees. An additional challenge was a lack of knowledge on the exporting process. Although armed with an abundance of expertise on early childhood education, Ehlis and her team needed guidance to sell internationally.
To provide that guidance, ExporTech assigns each participating company a coach. FunShine Express’s coach was Senior International Trade Specialist Heather Ranck with the U.S. Commercial Service.
“She posed questions to us and sent us in directions that we wouldn’t have thought about,” said Ehlis. “Her expertise as a coach was invaluable.”
FunShine Express’s second product line, FunShine Online, was deemed a better fit for Canada. The company created FunShine Online in 2014 as an economical solution for larger childcare education centers. Included in the product are online lesson plans, a searchable database of activities, downloadable materials, and the ability for customers to use supplies already on hand. FunShine Online uses monthly subscriptions and can be supplemented with kit materials. The product greatly decreases international shipping and customs charges.
As a result of ExporTech, FunShine Express was emboldened to overcome their obstacles and now has an action plan with defined steps that will allow them to reach their exporting goals.
“It’s not such a hit or miss now,” said Ehlis. “We actually have a strategy.”
If your company is interested in joining ExporTech’s summer session beginning May 12th, please contact Sharon May at (701) 231-1158 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about FunShine Express, please visit www.FunShineexpress.com.