Expert: The major impact women of Texas have on the state's small biz exports
Everything is bigger in Texas, including its small business ecosystem. There are over three million small businesses in the state, which represent 99.8 percent of all Texas businesses. However, according to the latest official U.S. Census Bureau data on small business exporters (2020), only 35,124 Texas-based companies exported goods abroad.
During my time in the Administration, I have had the opportunity to visit Texas on several occasions, including trips to Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso. Like most everything in Texas, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is sizable and a rich source of opportunity and ideas. But with over a thousand miles of shared border with Mexico, and considerable trade infrastructure like the Port of Houston, you can’t tell me that just 1 percent of Texas small businesses are exporting their products or services. This data, which mirrors the published trend for small business exporters nationwide, seemed severely undercounted. So, we endeavored to dig into what was going on.
As a result, the Office of International Trade (OIT) commissioned a study to determine the total addressable market (TAM) of small business exporters. The research dug deep into available public data and private surveys, which better accounted for smaller shipment values and growth in service exports. Among the key findings from the study is new data that places the actual number of exporting small businesses at 1.3 million – an almost fivefold increase over the estimates previously published by the Federal Government. Interestingly, minority, women-owned firms were found to over-index in selling abroad. The research also revealed a high concentration of certain tradeable sectors ranging from consumer, industrial, and other manufactured goods to services businesses in software, architectural, and engineering sectors. Ultimately, the study estimated the potential market size, or total addressable market, at over 2.6 million small businesses.
With the proliferation of digital commerce tools and with over 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, international sales represent a rich growth opportunity for small businesses. Indeed, businesses that export are more resilient, expand faster, and create higher paying jobs for Americans.
My colleague, District Director Tim Jeffcoat agrees. With his finger on the local pulse of the Houston-area economic market, he knows that exporting can be both an enormous growth opportunity, but at the same time filled with a daunting set of challenges to navigate. In his
Houston area network alone, they have over 200 advisors, mentors, and counselors that can guide you to develop a robust exporting plan, connect you with capital to fund your overseas expansion, and can even help you pursue a competitive grant to kick-start international sales.
This is exactly the case for Pat Hartmann, founder of Hartmann’s Inc., an Abilene, TX-based woman-owned small business. As a manufacturer of high-quality parts from state-of-the-art metal fabrication and welding departments, Hartmann has leveraged international sales to grow her company over three generations. In her words: “exporting has allowed us to become competitive in multiple markets throughout the entire world. It has diversified our knowledge base allowing us to work in manufacturing situations that span multiple types of standards including European and Japanese. Exporting now makes up 20 percent of our sales.”
As a result, Regional Administrator Ted James and I are among the many Administration officials who are pleased to recognize Pat Hartmann of Hartmann’s Inc. as the 2023 South Central Regional Exporter of the Year. She has established herself as a personal and professional role model due to their expansion and contributions to the community. We are confident that small businesses like these, as well as those identified in our Total Addressable Market study, can start and continue to leverage SBA resources to scale their business and access international opportunities, just as Hartmann did.
Pat Hartmann is one of the more than 11 million female founders the SBA is recognizing during Women’s History Month this March. While the post-pandemic recovery has complicated the economic landscape, we continue to better understand the important role women-owned small businesses play in our entrepreneurial ecosystem. They continue to contribute substantially to the national economy, showcasing innovative solutions and trailblazing techniques to lead the way forward.
If you are a current or future entrepreneur looking for assistance in how to get started or grow internationally, contact the SBA’s Office of International Trade or our network of 68 district offices which offer access to counseling, access to contracts, and access to capital.
Gabriel Esparza is the associate administrator for the Office of International Trade at the U.S. Small Business Administration.