SBA Update: How small businesses can thrive through exporting – Felipe Arroyave

From e-commerce platforms to logistic solutions, entrepreneurs are increasingly finding opportunities in exporting. In today’s episode of the SBA Update, we’re learning more about exporting and the opportunities it provides for small businesses. Joining us is Felipe Arroyave, President of Spectrum International and the SBA’s National Exporter of the Year. We’re also joined by SBA Regional Administrator, Allen Thomas. 

Key Takeaways 

1. Felipe Arroyave’s story embodies the American dream. Arriving as an immigrant from Colombia, he overcame significant challenges, including his father’s kidnapping by Guerrillas, to become a successful entrepreneur. His journey from a young immigrant to the president of Spectrum International and the SBA’s National Exporter of the Year illustrates the opportunities available in the U.S. for those willing to work hard and persevere.

2. The interview highlights the significant potential for small businesses in exporting. Arroyave’s initial experience of convincing his employer to export contact lenses led to exponential growth, with his company eventually selling millions of dollars worth of products internationally. This underscores the untapped potential for U.S. businesses to reach global markets, especially since 96% of customers and two-thirds of purchasing power are outside the U.S.

3. Arroyave discusses the challenges of exporting, such as dealing with strong U.S. currency and targeting emerging economies. Despite these difficulties, his success in international business demonstrates that with persistence, knowledge, and strategic planning small businesses can thrive in the global market. His experience of generating significant returns from a minimal initial investment in Puerto Rico is a testament to the rewards of exporting.

4. Moreover, Arroyave’s academic background in international business and business administration played a crucial role in his exporting success. The knowledge gained from his studies was directly applicable to his work, enabling him to navigate the complexities of international trade. This highlights the importance of education and continuous learning for entrepreneurs aiming to expand their businesses globally.

5. Both Arroyave and Thomas emphasize the invaluable support provided by the SBA. From export financing loans to market research and trade show assistance, the SBA offers numerous resources to help small businesses succeed in exporting. Arroyave credits the SBA’s support, particularly during the pandemic, with helping his company survive and thrive. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to leverage these resources, including the SBA, SBDC, and local chambers of commerce, to facilitate their entry into international markets.

"The United States is just a great country to be in, and everybody can live the American dream. Use the resources that the SBA has. They're amazing people to work with."* - Felipe Arroyave