How STEP Funding Services Help Local Companies Expand

The below interview originally ran in the January 2017 edition of The New Pioneer magazine. It is reproduced here with the express written permission of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

chuck-mills-headshot

Chuck Mills

Q&A with Charles D. Mills, President of Mills Machine Company, on his company’s use of the State Trade Expansion Grant Program offered through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

What initially made you decided to apply for the STEP grant?

“Since the grant was written for international marketing programs and I had always wanted to translate my website into several other languages, it was a perfect fit for my company. We chose Spanish to be the first language for translation because we were expanding our export market in Mexico, Central and South America.”

How has having your website translated into Spanish helped to increase opportunities/actual sales results?

“Our distributors have commented on how helpful the translated site is for them and their customers in trying to explain our product line and the advantages of our custom designed products.”

How did STEP funds help you save money in the long term?

“The STEP grant funds supplemented our investment for the translation costs which saved us several thousand dollars.

“As a relatively small company I probably would not have been able to come up with the money to translate my site, that is why I had not done it sooner.”

Describe the application process for the STEP grant.

“The application process was pretty involved but the questions were simple and straight forward. It requires you to define and update your international business plan which is always a good exercise for any business to do on a regular basis.”

What recommendations would you give other companies looking to apply?

“The STEP grant that I was awarded was $5,000 (the current cap is $2,000) and the cost of the translation plus the software and labor required to put that on our website cost us a little over $8,000. So, the new cap of $2,000 would still help but we obviously would have a lot more investment from our side. You could possibly at least translate your home page. The first thing that you need to do is contact your webmaster and see what is required to embed the software into your website and then shop around for a translation company that has good references in translating your industry’s terminology. Be aware of the different dialects and try to find some middle ground where people from different regions can understand your information. Use any local contacts that you have to provide guidance and translate your industries terminology into their language.”

What are some key takeaways from your experience?

“Do your homework, have a plan of what type of marketing that you want to apply for. You could translate your website or a brochure, attend ExporTech, exhibit at a trade show or whatever type of marketing that would grow your company.”

What is the primary reason peer companies should consider this grant other than the export portion?

“Take advantage of your tax dollars to supplement your marketing efforts to grow your company globally. Ninety-five percent of the world lives outside of the United States so take advantage of the opportunity and let’s grow the economy!”

For more information visit: okcommerce.gov/stepfund.

Read more about Chuck Mills and his century-old Oklahoma business in this profile from The Oklahoman.

(Top photo credit: Photo by Jim Stafford, For The Oklahoman.)

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