State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) (Benefit of $10,000 Grant) – APPLY NOW

The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is a crucial effort aiming to help small U.S. businesses grow globally. Operated at the state level, STEP provides financial aid and resources to eligible small businesses venturing into international trade.

 State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)
State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)

This guide explores key details about STEP, covering grant deadlines, guidelines, goals, funding amounts, eligibility criteria, required documents, and tips for a successful application.

Grant Deadlines

For STEP grants, the period is from October 1, 2023, to September 29, 2024, and businesses must match their applications with the deadlines set by their State Trade Promotion Program (STPP) administrators. These deadlines usually come around once a year, so potential applicants need to keep track of when they can apply.

Guidelines and Objectives

The guidelines and objectives of the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) are designed to:

  • Facilitate Global Expansion: Assist eligible small businesses in the U.S. to explore and expand their presence in international markets.
  • Financial Support: Provide financial assistance to small businesses, aiding them in covering costs associated with entering or expanding into global markets.
  • Enhance Export Capabilities: Support activities that enhance the export capabilities of small businesses, fostering their ability to compete globally.
  • Educational Resources: Offer resources, training, and educational materials to empower businesses with the knowledge and skills needed for successful international trade.
  • Promote Trade Opportunities: Facilitate participation in trade missions, export training workshops, and other events to connect small businesses with potential international partners.
  • Market Access: Open doors for small businesses by helping them access new markets and customers around the world.
  • Encourage Innovation: Encourage innovation and adaptation to global market trends, ensuring small businesses remain competitive on a global scale.

Grant Amount

STEP program grants vary based on the state’s allocation and project scope, providing a 90% reimbursement rate for eligible expenses. Companies can receive a maximum benefit of $10,000, covering costs like marketing materials, export training, and trade show participation.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for STEP assistance, businesses must meet specific eligibility criteria, which may include:

  • Small Business Status: Applicants should meet the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) definition of a small business.
  • Export Readiness: Businesses must demonstrate a readiness and capacity to engage in international trade activities.
  • Compliance with State Requirements: Adherence to specific state-level requirements, including business registration and compliance with state regulations.


Some entities are not eligible for STEP assistance, including those engaged in illegal activities, nonprofits, and those that don’t meet the small business criteria.

Application Process

Applying for a STEP Program grant involves the following steps:

  • Visit Official Website: Begin by visiting the official STEP Program website to access detailed information about the grant, including guidelines, deadlines, and application forms.
  • Review Guidelines: Thoroughly review the guidelines provided by the STEP Program to understand specific requirements and expectations.
  • Prepare Application Materials: Collect and prepare all necessary application materials, which may include details about your business, proposed international activities, and budget plans.
  • Submit Application: Complete the online application form and submit all required documentation through the specified application portal on the STEP Program website.
  • Confirmation and Feedback: After submission, applicants may receive confirmation of receipt and, in some cases, feedback on their applications. Stay updated on the official website for any additional information or correspondence.

Documentation and Requirements

To apply for a STEP Program grant, you typically need to submit the following documents:

  • Business Information: Provide details about your business, including its size, structure, and location.
  • Project Proposal: Develop a comprehensive proposal outlining your international market expansion activities, including goals, methodology, and budget plans.
  • Budget Plan: Present a detailed budget indicating how STEP Program funds will be used for eligible expenses. Follow the budget guidelines provided by the program.
  • Application Forms: Complete and submit all required application forms specified by the STEP Program.

Tips for a Successful Application

  • Thoroughly Understand Eligibility Criteria: Ensure your business aligns with the STEP eligibility criteria outlined by both the federal and state levels.
  • Detailed Export Plan: Develop a comprehensive export plan that outlines your business’s international trade objectives, strategies, and anticipated outcomes.
  • Accurate Budgeting: Clearly articulate how STEP funds will be utilized in your project, providing an accurate and well-thought-out budget.
  • Adherence to Guidelines: Strictly adhere to the guidelines provided by your state’s STPP administrator, ensuring all required documentation is included and submitted on time.
  • Leverage State Resources: Familiarize yourself with additional resources provided by your state’s trade promotion program, as they can offer valuable support and guidance.
  • Engage in Export Training: Utilize export training programs offered by state and federal agencies to enhance your understanding of global trade practices.

Benefits of STEP Programs

The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) provides significant advantages to small businesses:

  • Financial Support: STEP assists eligible small businesses financially, covering expenses for international market expansion, trade missions, export training, and marketing activities.
  • Global Market Reach: Small businesses, by joining STEP, gain entry to global markets, expanding opportunities and reaching a wider customer base for increased sales and business growth.
  • Education and Training: STEP offers resources and training, equipping small businesses with the knowledge and skills essential for successful international trade through workshops, seminars, and educational materials.
  • Trade Mission Assistance: STEP aids small businesses in participating in organized trade missions, facilitating networking, relationship building, and exploration of business prospects in foreign markets.
  • Marketing Support: STEP assistance includes backing for marketing initiatives to promote products or services internationally, involving the development of marketing materials, trade show participation, and targeted promotional campaigns.
  • Export Counseling: STEP provides access to export counseling services, offering guidance on navigating the complexities of international trade, aiding businesses in making informed decisions and overcoming challenges.
  • Enhanced Competitiveness: Engaging in global trade through STEP enhances the competitiveness of small businesses, fostering innovation, adaptability, and tailored product or service development for international demands.
  • Networking Opportunities: STEP organizes networking events, connecting small businesses with entrepreneurs, industry experts, and potential international partners, fostering collaborations and partnerships.
  • Contribution to Economic Growth: Small businesses expanding internationally with STEP contribute to economic growth at local and national levels, positively impacting job creation and overall economic development.
  • Risk Management: STEP assistance often includes guidance on managing risks associated with international trade, and helping small businesses navigate regulatory requirements, currency fluctuations, and other challenges.


Small businesses can greatly benefit from the STEP program by implementing a strategic approach and adhering to guidelines, which can accelerate their international expansion and promote economic growth while enhancing their global competitiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can non-profit organizations apply for STEP assistance?

No, STEP assistance is generally not available to non-profit organizations. The program focuses on supporting small businesses engaged in international trade activities.

Are there specific deadlines for applying to STEP?

Small businesses should check with their respective state’s STEP program for specific deadlines, as they may vary. Regularly reviewing program updates and announcements is crucial for timely applications.

How can businesses ensure a successful application for STEP assistance?

To enhance the chances of success, businesses should thoroughly review program guidelines, align their activities with program objectives, and submit a well-prepared application with all required documentation.



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