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The world marketplace impacts Illinois entrepreneurs and small businesses in many ways. 

  • Global access to information and the ease of data transfer.
  • Immigrant entrepreneurs posting noteworthy results in their new homes.
  • Competition from everywhere and for everything under the sun.
  • Increased market opportunities and the exponential size of markets.


Information Transfer: A quick search yields many online chat rooms and forums for entrepreneurs, open to all demographics and without regard to location, time zone, or age. Developing countries present ideas to developed countries and vice-versa. Grameen Bank of India continues to inspire small loan micro-lending. Massive, open online courses, known as MOOCs, and startup tutorials are widely available and hosted by reputable, internationally accessible organizations. Search engine power is profound and available without regard to title or pedigree. For example, learning how to obtain the "CE" mark favored in Europe for a U.S. manufactured product. A simple search of "Online Laser Cutting Service" yielded firms in America, France, the U.K. and elsewhere along with FREE worldwide shipping. Websites and videos are wonderful, informative platforms for entrepreneurs that level the playing field. Real-time chats, scanned documents and digital photography remove barriers and delays; money transfers and translation services further enable transactions.

Immigrants As Entrepreneurs: A 2014 Kauffman Foundation study found immigrants are twice as likely to start a business as native-born Americans. A 2015 Inc. Magazine article, The Most Entrepreneurial Group In America Wasn't Born In America, emphasized that immigrants start a significant amount of new businesses, even during recessionary times. By nature, and throughout history, this group is comprised of risk-takers. It follows that businesses comfortable with multiple cultures and possessing diverse contacts engage in foreign trade more readily. Countries around-the-world value entrepreneurs and their long term, positive economic impact. For instance, Canada advertises their startup visa program to tech-savvy prospects in California's Silicon Valley.

Competition From Everywhere: If a delivery service truck can make it down your road, a cell tower is near, or some digital bandwidth is available, then your options for source of supply on anything is almost limitless. As a result, it is often prudent to sell into your competitor's markets if for no other reason than to minimize their attention to your core customer base. Make them defend their turf, just as you do yours! A few years back, I was surprised to learn that the world's largest buy/sell site is not e-bay, but rather Alibaba. It was a lesson learned while doing competitive analysis for a metal casting foundry. Since then, I have watched the growing diversity of goods and services traded on Craigslist and Etsy. While touching on metal castings as an example, it should be clearly stated that world trade certainly includes B2B (business-to-business) and industrial items. Support services are also easily purchased by specific task; look at sites such as where freelancing is entrepreneurial and can be based anywhere.

Opportunities Presented By World Markets: Classic marketing theory urges strategies that extend product (or service) lifecycles. Of course finding new, under-developed or un-tapped markets fits this theory nicely. Often a different market can be entered at a cost lower than re-tool, re-design and re-invent pressures brought on by reaching the mature or decline stage in product life cycle (obsolescence). Then there is the adage about 95% of the world's consumers residing outside of America, certainly a tantalizing number. Just checking online statistics for the product category of "hats" produced a domestic market size of $2 billion and a worldwide estimate of $7 billion. In addition, a recent summary of indicators reminds me that economic "ups and downs" occur in various parts of the world at different times. Wouldn't this be helpful information to have prior to your primary market taking a nosedive?

World trade is not just for large firms, it is for any size business. One general attribute of small companies is their ability to make decisions and take action quickly. In world trade, this can often be an asset. As services and trade assistance grow, foreign commerce becomes easier to engage in. Use the vast access to data and markets to expand your business thinking and horizons.

For continued discussion, you are free to contact me at I am a community and economic development educator for the University of Illinois Extension.