Google Study Shines Light On How Small Business Exports Impact Economic Growth

There’s an opportunity for America’s 30 million small businesses to export their products and Google believes technology can play a critical role in helping to overcome the challenges.

South Dakota-based Ryan McFarland founded Strider Bikes after inventing a pedal-free bicycle for his young son. He found it easy to start the new business after finding technology through Google Ads, YouTube and Market Finder.

"Riding a bike is a universal thing," said Susie Marcks, marketing manager at Strider Sports International. "People generally love riding bikes and having that freedom and thrill you get on two wheels. We’ve streamlined the process for learning to ride, making it fun for the parent and child. Now kids are getting on bikes as young as 12 months, and that’s something people around the globe get excited about."

Since McFarland started the company in 2017, Strider Bikes has sold more than 2.5 million bikes to customers in 78 countries, with international sales accounting for more than half of the company’s business. The opportunity to export products opened many doors.  

Still, the majority of small businesses do not export their products based on a variety of challenges, and many that do find it to be a difficult process.

Every country has its unique import and export challenges, which small businesses face. "There are tariffs and specific safety precautions for each country, but we have a really solid grasp of the process and we look forward to expanding into even more territories," Marcks said. 

Google commissioned a study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Brunswick Research on small business exports to better understand the opportunities and challenges for small businesses.

The report -- Growing Small Business Exports: How Technology Strengthens American Trade, published Wednesday -- surveyed more than 3,800 small businesses across the country to estimate the current and potential impact of small business exports on the U.S. economy.

Small business exports support more than six million jobs across all 50 states, and add more than $540 billion annually to the American economy, according to the report.

“If policymakers and the business community can help small companies overcome some of the challenges of exporting — like language barriers, customs issues and payment challenges — we could create nearly 900,000 additional jobs in the U.S.,” wrote Karan Bhatia, VP, Global Public Policy and Government Relations at Google, in a blog post.

The report suggests that modernizing and updating trade policies is the key to unlocking opportunities for small businesses. This requires a better use of technology.

The survey found that 70% of businesses are not aware of digital tools such as translation, cross-border payment services, and advertising that could help them reach global customers.

The report also offers recommendations based on the findings. It suggests developing a collaborative initiative between the federal government, state governments, the private sector and others to train and assist U.S. small businesses in using technology for exporting -- and encouraging innovators and technology providers to build new digital tools and broaden awareness of existing tools. Google estimates that only 20% of small businesses today use digital tools to export. 

Policymakers also should prioritize additional market-opening trade agreements that benefit small business exporters, and build on the U.S. and Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), according to the report.

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