The Export Academy

U.S. companies are increasing their bottom line and growing their brand globally by meeting world demand for innovative, quality, made in USA products and services. Small-to-medium sized businesses may be in a good position to export their goods and services to overseas markets. Did you know that more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers are outside of the United States? Today with the Internet, improved logistics channels, free trade agreements, eCommerce, and the array of available export assistance through the U.S. government and its partners exporting is more achievable than ever before.

The Houston MBDA Business Center (Minority Business Development Agency), operated by Houston Community College(HCC), is a well-known resource to many successful entrepreneurs in Houston; but, probably one you had not thought of recently. The programs they offer are comprehensive and current. The speakers and resources that HCC has access to are top in their fields. Recently launched, the Export Academy was an opportunity for new or existing companies to develop practical, hands-on training in exporting through modules presented over the course of seven weeks. It was
held virtually this year from September 15 to October 27, hosted by MBDA Business Center in partnership with HCC and the U. S. Commercial Service.

The cost was minimal for the amount of training and connections offered. If you are looking to expand your knowledge of business and take yourself and your business to the next level, HCC is a fabulous choice. They know how to work with working professionals and offer programs that will work with your schedule and within your budget making it easy to train yourself and your team.

Companies are uniquely positioned in Houston to engage in business abroad because the city is connected to the world with four ports, two international airports, and more than 90 foreign consulates. Minority entrepreneurs are twice as likely to export, but they still represent a small share of exporters in the United States.  Gabriela Zambrano, director of the Houston MBDA Business Center explained, “Our goal is to inspire minority firms to expand their business abroad by connecting them to existing services and introducing them on export financing alternatives.”  

  • Gabriela Zambrano, Director of the Houston MBDA Business Center

Each day covered a different essential part of doing business as an exporter and ended with a few questions being answered by the speakers. The professionals gathered to be a part of the academy comprised an incredible amount of experience and practical hands on knowledge of doing business in foreign lands. 

Developing an International Business Plan was the first order of business at the Export Academy’s first day September 15, 2020. There to speak about the ins and outs of developing a global mission statement and business model were Willy Verbrugghe with SCORE, Brendan Kelly with the U.S. Commercial Service, and David Morse of DBM Consulting. “If you want to export, you need an International Business Plan. The ways of doing business in other countries are very different. You need to understand the individual history, culture, and ways of reaching a decision.” Willy Verbrugghe, CEO, COB, CSO, and SCORE volunteer, lists all the things you need to consider when planning to invest in exporting internationally. Brendan Kelly, Senior International Trade Specialist, U. S. Commercial Service Houston, spoke on how the U. S. Commercial Service has helped companies by reviewing success stories. The U.S. Commercial Service provides U.S. companies unparalleled access to business opportunities around the world. They have relationships with foreign governments and business leaders in every key global market. Each year, they help U.S. companies export goods and services worth billions of dollars. Then David Morse spoke on negotiations, “Negotiation is universal. Unique skills, so common that they completely, invisibly surround us, are present all the time!” explained David B. Morse, who has 25 years of global experience in business development and runs a consulting practice specializing in negotiation and mediation of long-term, high-value partnerships, He was recently selected as a World Affairs Council of Houston 2020 Global Leader of Influence. Each day was full of relevant current information from industry leaders ready to share their knowledge and skills. The next 6 days were as follows.

Foreign Market Entry Strategies – September 22

Identifying appropriate market entry strategies, methods of market entry, and the myriad of resources and approaches available to companies in Houston.


Alberto Rodriguez-Baez, San Antonio MBDA Export Center 
Steven Garrett, U.S. Commercial Service
Willy Verbrugghe, SCORE

Digital Strategies for International Trade –

September 29

Maximizing the main ecommerce sales channels including website globalization, online marketplace, social media, and in-country distributor.


James Bledsoe, U.S. Commercial Service
Amber Ambrose, Ambrose McDowell
Stephen May, Get One Foot Over

Contracts, Legal Issues & Licensing – October 6

Issues involved in drawing up contracts including export documentation, Customs, Licensing, Export Controls, IP Protections, etc.


Jamie Adams, Livingston International
Hemant Jadhav, Linde Engineering
Lawrence Hanson, Attorney

Export Financing and Tax Issues – October 13

An overview of trade finance resources, Export Import Bank and payment mechanisms.  (Letters of Credit, Cash in advance, etc.) International pricing strategies including ways to be more competitive in the international marketplace.


Eric Miller, Export Import Bank
Jolie Cosman, Century Freight
Alale Allal, SBA

Transportation Issues – October 20

A discussion of freight forwarding, INCO terms, documentation, packing, landed costs, internationally accepted terms of trade.


John Hark, Bertling Logistics,
Debra Capko, Pegasus (TBC/DT)
Jarred Montgomery, UPS

Export Panel – October 27

Panel of seasoned exporters discuss their own experiences and lessons learned.


Val Thompson,  HITDC-Moderator,
Hector Escobar, BBVA
Nyamusi Igambi, U.S Commercial Service – Houston
Hebab Quazi, MARTECH International Inc.

The final day October 27, 2020 also graduation day, was packed with fresh information from a well-informed panel on exporting products and services abroad. Nyamusi Igambi – Houston Director, U.S. Commercial Service spoke and answered questions on the products that the US Commercial Services offer to US Exporters. Hector Escobar – Senior Vice President, Global Trade Finance, BBVA shared with the participants the products his bank offers in conjunction with EXIM Bank and the SBA as loan guarantors. Hebab Quazi – Director, Smart Manufacturing, Martech International Inc. offered the participants a world of experience on doing business abroad mainly on economic, cultural, social and political realities. Val Thompson, CEO of Houston International Trade Development Council, Inc. (HITDC) offered inspirational messages to would-be US exporters and moderated the panel discussions. The Export Academy hosted by the Minority Business Development Agency and sponsored by Houston Community College (HCC) was proud to announce forty graduates of the information filled seven day event. It was a great opportunity. 

Many Thanks to the Sponsors!

US Commercial Services,

Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA),

Houston Community College (HCC), District Export Council (DEC)

Houston MBDA Business Center
2302 Fannin Street, Suite 165 Houston, Texas 77002, United States



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