While billion-dollar investments tend to grab headlines, the true lifeblood of Kentucky’s economy are small businesses, which comprise more than 96.5 percent of all businesses in the commonwealth and employ about 700,000 Kentuckians. For many of these businesses, it’s essential to expand their market reach past US borders and across the globe.
Enter the State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP, a grand initiative helping businesses begin exporting or broaden their export markets. The Small Business Administration, cabinet-administered program now provides awardees $10,000 – double the amount offered in past years – to cover trade-related expenses such as travel costs, market research and matchmaking, translation services, export education, trade advisory services, compliance and international marketing media design, to name a few.
STEP funds can spur on Kentucky companies like Louisville-based SkiSkootys, which sought to make a worldwide splash with its slip-on ski-boot soles. Born out of your typical Kentucky basement, the adjustable, vibrant rubber soles have become a hit, now selling in more than 10 countries and gaining popularity with world-class athletes.
Ski-Skootys have now been featured in two Olympic Games, most recently at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Athlete after athlete donned the vibrant, comfort-giving SkiSkootys between events, putting the Kentucky-made product on a global stage.
Before all the success, the business needed to overcome some hurdles. Turning to STEP for help covering translation expenses, SkiSkootys CEO Sally Lawler said the grants ended up doing more for the company than she could have ever anticipated.
“Had we not gotten those STEP grants, we probably wouldn’t be in business,” SkiSkootys CEO Sally Lawler said.
SkiSkootys used STEP funding to help build an international market for its slip-on ski-boot soles, using the $5,000 grants to cover business-related travel expenses, market research, translation services, export education and other related costs of doing business globally.
SkiSkootys’ rise is just one of hundreds of STEP success stories in Kentucky. Learn more about the program at
Learn more about the program and how to apply here.