2012 Export Excellence Participant and SBA Exporter of the Year
- Company: Rekluse Motor Sports
- Headquarters: Boise, Idaho
- Category: Consumer Products
Rekluse had been selling overseas since it opened in 2002, but growth was mainly unplanned, Alison Kelsey says. “We sold into 34 countries but we had never had someone dedicated to building a distributor network. A lot of what I did the first two years involved laying the groundwork with distributors so we would be good partners.” Among the first decisions she made as export manager was to enroll in a mentoring program created by the Boise District Export Council called Export Excellence. The program matched newcomers like Kelsey with veteran exporters; in her case it was Gerd Uitdewilligen, director of International Sales with PakSense, a temperature-monitoring system used by shippers. The program also tapped the brainpower of business school students at Kelsey’s alma mater, who provided customized market research.
Challenge & Solution
For three months, Kelsey met every few weeks with Uitdewilligen, focusing on writing a business plan to expand exports.
“In general, my advice to Alison was to pick one market and try to do it well; don’t try to be everything to everybody,” recalls the Dutch-born professional. “And, make sure all your agreements with distributors are written down.”
Uitdewilligen oversaw the local students’ research efforts, which identified Germany, France and Italy as top candidates for investment of attention and resources, based on demographics and recreation trends.
The 2011 mentoring program culminated in a five-company business-plan competition. Team Kelsey won. Unlike some plans, this one was implemented. On Uitdewilligen’s recommendations, Kelsey connected with the Idaho Department of Commerce and received $18,000 in STEP program matching funds, grants that helped finance a pair of overseas marketing missions. The first was to Europe, culminating in a new agreement between Rekluse and a distributor in France, and what Kelsey calls “strengthened relationships” with the company’s other European partners. The 28-year-old export manager also traveled to South America earlier this year to research Brazil and Chile’s market potential.
Since 2011, Rekluse’s export footprint has increased to 42 countries from 34, and its overall share of exports has risen to 27 percent. In the first quarter of 2012, international sales rose 52 percent—a surge that helped the company earn SBA’s National Exporter of the Year designation. This year, Rekluse received the President’s “E” Award for Exports at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in June.
Kelsey decided to pay it forward and registered with Export Excellence with plans to mentor others. In September she began working with another young export manager at a nearby auto after-market manufacturer.