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In addition to these resources offered elsewhere in this online guide there are a variety of programs tailored specifically to U.S. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Trade Counseling and Assistance

Business experts at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can help you with exporting or other areas of entrepreneurship to help your business start and grow. SBA offices serve every state and territory. In addition more than 850 Small Business Development Centers, 380 chapters of SCORE (an SBA resource partner with more than 13,000 volunteer counselors and trainers to small businesses), and 110 Women’s Business Centers are available. The SBA also has a senior international trade and finance specialist co-located with U.S. Commercial Service professionals in 18 of the 109 U.S. Export Assistance Centers.

Locate an SBA Trade Specialist here.

Trade & Project Finance

The following finance programs are available to U.S. SMEs:

  • Project Finance Direct Loans for Small and Medium Enterprises – the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provides medium- to long-term funding through direct loans to eligible investment projects in developing countries and emerging markets. Direct loans are provided to those projects being undertaken by U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises. OPIC lends in U.S. dollars at a fixed rate in loan amounts up to $250 million per project.

    : U.S. businesses with annual revenues under $250 million. Please refer to the OPIC Finance Eligibility Checklist for more details.
  • Export Working Capital Program – SBA provides up to $5 million in short-term, transaction-specific working capital loan guarantees to U.S. small business exporters. Uses of this financing include pre-export financing of labor and materials and post-shipment financing of the accounts receivable generated from transaction-specific overseas sales.
  • Export Express – SBA provides small businesses that have exporting potential, but that need funds to cover the initial costs of entering an export market with up to $500,000 in export development financing to buy or produce goods or to provide services for export.
  • International Trade Loan Program  – SBA provides U.S. businesses that are preparing to engage in or already engaged in international trade, or that are adversely affected by competition from imports with up to $5.25 million in financing to upgrade equipment and facilities.

Online matchmaking

Trade Mission Online: SBA’s searchable database is designed to facilitate international small business sales, franchising, joint ventures, and licensing. Trade Mission Online is used by small businesses that wish to export their products or that seek U.S. partners or suppliers for trade-related activities. SBA also uses the database to recruit and provide time-sensitive trade promotion information to registered companies.

How do I know if I qualify as a “small business”?

SBA size guidelines define the maximum size that a firm (including its affiliates) can be to qualify as a small business for most SBA programs. Size standards usually are a measure of a business's number of employees or its average annual receipts.

Based on those criteria, the SBA has established the following common standards for a small business, depending on its North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code:

  • 500 employees for most manufacturing and mining industries, and
  • $7 million in average annual receipts for most non-manufacturing industries.

There are many exceptions, but these are the primary size standards for most industries. For more information about size standards, please refer to the Guide to SBA’s Definitions of Small Business.