Name: Martha Montoya
Company: Los Kitos Produce and Farms
Time exporting: 4 years
Export revenue: US$0.5mn to US$2mn (12% of total sales)
GTR: Did you want to be an exporter from the moment you founded Los Kitos?
Montoya: I love international business and other cultures, and I had opened export divisions for previous employers, so mentally I knew I wanted to export, but we were not ready straight away. As a small company you have only so many hours and so many dollars, so allocating 5 to 10% of your business to expand it internationally takes guts – it took about six months. It’s worth it, as it puts another customer area on your company’s balance sheet, and it’s rewarding because you travel and meet other cultures. We will definitely grow our exports in the future.
GTR: Did you use trade finance right away, and if so, which products?
Montoya: I would not have done it without those tools because even though our first international contract was with the largest retailer in Mexico, I didn’t know the customer and whether they would pay, so I wanted that peace of mind.
I also had investors and growers behind me that normally wouldn’t have been comfortable selling anything outside of the borders of the US because in their minds there was no law to protect them. I got the insurance product from US Exim, and then I brought that to a factoring company, which was much easier to get on board because I had that insurance.
At the time, I had to educate everyone from the bottom up about what the US Exim insurance policy was, even that factoring company. The US has plenty of tools and resources to help exporters but small businesses don’t fully understand how they all work.
Since then I have kept on using Exim: that’s my tool to get anyone to back me up. We moved from the factoring company to a private investor because the former raised its prices. Now we’re doing an application to use a factoring programme through the Small Business Administration, and we’re also applying to use the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), another division of the Department of Commerce, which would put us in touch with the bankers working with US Exim for factoring.
GTR: Have you ever considered the commercial banking sector?
Montoya: We applied for a line of credit for our domestic business, but we were a brand new company so they declined us. Besides, the industry moves so fast that I don’t have time to deal with bankers and paperwork. My business plan is not as perfect as if I was selling furniture, and bankers don’t like that.
GTR: What’s the biggest challenge you currently face in your export business?
Montoya: Shipping lines and trucking companies do not understand how important it is that that one little load in the millions of loads they manage is dealt with promptly and properly. I’m competing with the large companies that are sending thousands of containers – the big business that logistics firms make the most money from, so I’m just a tiny piece, and I have to hassle like crazy