The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is a Colorado financial assistance program for aspiring and current Colorado exporters entering into a new international market. The grant program supports small and medium-sized business through funds to offset international business development and marketing costs. 

Financial assistance through STEP is only applicable to expenses that have yet to be incurred by the applicant and which have specifically been deemed as eligible for reimbursement by OEDIT. Grants are capped at $15,000 per business to reimburse for costs associated with projects, activities or services. Approved applicants pay for the project up front, then submit proof of payment to be reimbursed 1/2 of the approved expenses.

By accepting funding, awardees agree to complete short surveys to report on sales numbers achieved in the market of the grant funding. Company name and survey information is kept confidential and will not be shared outside of OEDIT's internal reporting requirements.

The STEP grant period ends 9/30/16. Proposed projects must be completed with closing paperwork submitted by 9/15/16.  Applications involving travel must be submitted a minimum of 45 days before travel dates. Grant program applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funding runs out.

STEP is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Applicant Eligibility Checklist

Colorado company participant must meet the following qualifications to be eligible for STEP:

  • Company must comply with SBA size and eligibility requirements, and submit additional SBA required forms in addition to the application
  • Company must be new to export or expanding to a new export market
  • Company must have its headquarters located in Colorado or have at least 50% of its employees based in Colorado
  • Company should already have a commercialized product or service that is to be exported
  • Company must have at least two years of domestic sales experience
  • Company must show a profit during the last fiscal year
  • Company must be registered and in “Good Standing” with the Colorado Secretary of State
  • Company must employ a minimum of five full-time employees and fewer than 200
  • Company must be export ready. Export readiness is evaluated by OEDIT based on the company’s ability to meet new customer demand, provide any necessary customer service to foreign buyers and meet any applicable export regulations and/or certifications that may be required to sell the product or service in the target market.
  • Company must apply directly to grant program. No third party consultants, agents, or representatives may apply on behalf of a client company or their own consultant firm.
  • A participant is defined as a company, not an individual employee of a company

Eligible Export Projects, Activities or Services Covered by Program

Grant proceeds may be used for specific international business development and marketing projects, activities or services. These costs may include, but are not limited to:

Client Development Activities

  • Roundtrip, economy-class airfare to a foreign market for up to two individuals as necessary and as warranted by the anticipated economic benefit of the trip. Awardees may upgrade airfare at their own expense.
  • Roundtrip, economy-class airfare for a foreign company to come to Colorado to further develop and already existing business relationship with a local Colorado company. Roundtrip airfare will be provided for up to two individuals from the foreign company as necessary and as warranted by the anticipated economic benefit of the trip
  • Lodging for up to seven nights for up to two representatives of the participant in the foreign market or their potential buyer/partner in Colorado. Funds will cover standard-room charges and cannot cover suites or similar lodging expenses
  • Foreign trade show exhibition and conference participation costs
  • OEDIT and/or U.S. Department of Commerce sponsored trade missions
  • Foreign business-to-business matchmaking services, including the use of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Gold Key service
  • Targeted advertising in overseas industry trade publications

Technical Assistance Activities

  • Legal fees to assist with international contracts or other legal documents, intellectual property protection in international markets, international legal counseling or other legal questions that may arise
  • Translation services for contracts, websites, marketing materials and other official documents
  • Due diligence and credit reports on potential international buyers and distributors obtained through the International Company Profile of the DOC or other private sources.
  • Costs associated with international labeling, packaging and/or shipping
  • Translation and product localization-related services, including compliance with foreign regulatory requirements
  • Design or production of international marketing materials
  • Quality certifications and product registration in international markets
  • Preparation of product documents, product registration, or assembly or maintenance instructions

With regard to foreign travel and other costs incurred by companies, the following costs are allowable:

  • Airfare (consistent with Fly America Act guidelines);
  • Ground transportation fees;
  • Baggage fees;
  • Parking fees;
  • Meals and lodging (based on GSA/Department of State per diem rates);
  • Registration fees and booth space for trade shows;
  • Trade mission fees;
  • Currency exchange fees;
  • Other associated and allowable travel expenses;
  • Fees for shipping sample products (capped at $2,000);
  • Cost of compliance testing an existing product for entry into an export market (capped at $2,000);
  • Applicant export research tool subscription used to assist STEP clients with market research (capped at $1,000); and
  • Website translation into foreign language, search engine optimization, localization services (capped at $3,000)

 

Application Process

International business development strategies and projects that demonstrate a need for funding in a clear, targeted and manageable manner will be considered for STEP. Funding amounts are at the discretion of OEDIT, and selection of participants will be made through a competitive process based on the quality of proposals and export potential of applicant companies. 

Applications are submitted electronically through a username and password that is unique to each applicant. Applicants must first speak to the OEDIT International Division to determine eligibility and to receive electronic instructions to apply. 

OEDIT will review completed applications as they are received and determine eligibility and funding levels on a rolling basis. Grant awardees will receive a detailed commitment letter from OEDIT indicating the agreed-upon export development project or activities, timing and expenses in USD. Financial assistance through STEP is only applicable to expenses that have yet to be incurred by the applicant and which have specifically been deemed as eligible for reimbursement by OEDIT. 

To apply to STEP, please contact one of the following International Division representatives:

General Inquiries:                                      
Stacy Feeney - International Outreach Manager
303-892-3858 or stacy.feeney@state.co.us            

Projects in Asia-Pacific                        
Dan Lane - International Business Manager, Asia-Pacific
303-892-3846 or dan.lane@state.co.us

Projects in Europe, Middle East, Africa                          
Stephanie Dybsky - Senior International Business Manager, EMEA
303-892-8762 or stephanie.dybsky@state.co.us

Projects in the Americas
John Bristol - International Business Manger, Americas
303-892-3761 or john.bristol@state.co.us