NDTO News Article

Let’s Keep Exporting, ND

Funding available for virtual missions, shows, and introductions.

The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) has funding available for your exporting business, both travel and non-travel options. As we all continue to navigate through this challenging environment, NDTO is here to help.  We fund export opportunities through STEP ND from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Specialty Crop Block Grants from the ND Department of Agriculture.

Meeting new contacts and making new connections are pillars to exporting. While the way we do business has been reimagined, there are still many ways to keep business flowing. Everything is going virtual, as I am sure you have noticed, and so has our funding. Many more virtual opportunities are now available, and our programs have been updated to serve you better. Approved projects now include virtual trade missions, virtual introductions, virtual trade shows, and Gold Key services.

Virtual Opportunities

Virtual Trade Shows: These can be great spaces, literally, virtual spaces that you can create a booth with marketing materials, signs, posters, videos, and literature available for potential buyers. Your company will have the ability to interact with many different participants, show-goers and often virtually walk around or visit other booths throughout the show. It’s a bit like walking through a videogame.

Virtual Trade Missions: Trade missions are a more focused approach to business with pre-screened potential buyers and sellers matched with similar interests and industries. Typically, there are multiple face-to-face meetings scheduled with specific buyers from one region or location. Interpreters can be made available if needed. This setup provides several opportunities to get to know each other, ask questions, and present your products in a more targeted approach.

Virtual Introductions: With a virtual introduction, you are provided with a direct introduction to a potential buyer after research and selection have been completed and agreed upon by both parties. NDTO can assist with virtual introductions and market research to connect your company with meaningful contacts. Introductions are a direct approach to meeting with a specific person with the intent of building a relationship.  

USCS Gold Key Services: The US Commercial Services Gold Key service provides up to five pre-screened appointments with sales representatives, business partners, and local entities in a chosen country. There are a variety of options and pricing available with these services that can be found here.


There are many benefits to taking a virtual approach, and as the technology gets even better, the value of these interactions will increase significantly.

  • Time will be one of the largest benefits; no need to have key employees traveling across the globe for weeks. With a targeted approach, there is a specific time commitment.
  • Exploration, for a relatively low-cost, a variety of countries and companies can be engaged to understand their interest in what your company may have to offer. Take this as an opportunity to explore and learn more about other markets.
  • Focused priorities while not spending hours on a variety of potential buyers. Some virtual options provide a targeted approach to meetings, and objectives allowing you to focus on those key issues.
  • Expenses with virtual options are lower compared to physical travel options. Many of these opportunities can be made more affordable with the available grant funding from the NDTO.
  • Building relationships in a virtual setting will jumpstart any in-person meetings for the future. Creating rapport before traveling to the new market will go a long way to making meaningful progress in business dealings.

Funding Available

The NDTO has funding available for the activities mentioned above, and we would be happy to assist in keeping your exports moving. The funding depends on product type, and business eligibility determined by guidelines from the Small Business Administration or ND Department of Agriculture. The eligible projects are reimbursable at 75%, with the company buy-in at 25%. With STEP funding, the cap of five activities has been removed to aid utilization. For more information and to connect with our team, please reach out to Amanda@ndto.com and review NDTO grant opportunities here.

Although none of these options is truly is better than meeting face-to-face, these virtual interactions are the first steps to forging new bonds and making new connections that may eventually lead to sales. There will come a time when an in-person meeting will need to happen, and when it does, you will not have to start the relationship from scratch. With so many virtual opportunities available, NDTO is happy to help support your endeavor to keep meeting people, keep moving your business forward, and continue working towards your export goals.