Exporting for small business

The importance of exports to our relatively small national economy cannot be underestimated, and a key part of our economic growth is the increasing amount of Irish enterprises that become exporters.

Perhaps you may have taken an active business decision to look at exporting to foreign markets, or you may have been introduced to the idea by an unexpected order from overseas. In any case, as a first time exporter, it is important to consider the additional strains exporting will put on your time, staff and financial resources.

As a small or micro business, you need to develop the necessary skills and competencies for serving your home market before you launch into export markets. You then need to adapt those skills for the challenges that come with exporting.

Here at the Local Enterprise Office Donegal, we recognise the importance of exporting to individual business as well as to the national economy. We believe that exporting can contribute to the long-term stability of businesses by enhancing competitiveness and improving return on investment.

While exporting can be rewarding and profitable for small businesses, it is complex and can be very risky. You need to be clear in your objectives and it is essential to carry out comprehensive and detailed market research to gain a thorough understanding of your target customers overseas.

Key points to consider:

  • As there is a good deal of documentation needed for exporting, an experienced freight forwarder may be a good way to start. They will deal with documentation and help you avoid most of the pitfalls.
  • The best source of advice about exporting to particular countries is likely to be businesspeople that have been there and done it. Enlist their knowledge and experience through networking, or take advantage of the First Flight Initiative as explained below.
  • Be clear about your terms and conditions of trade when dealing with overseas customers, and the insurance and contractual obligations you undertake.
  • It is essential to seek assistance from an experienced adviser or solicitor before you enter into contracts with agents or distributors. The relevant legislation is notoriously complex and it is important that the implications of any agreement are understood.
  • In many countries, the Middle East and Africa especially, government regulations may dictate your choice of representation - usually an approved agent - and the level of commission.
  • Customs formalities have to be properly adhered to for all consignments coming into or leaving Ireland from countries outside the EU. The Automated Entry Processing (AEP) System from the Revenue facilitates customs import and exports procedures and the clearance of import / export documents. Manual customs documentation is currently being phased out for further information on importing and exporting procedures follow this link. http://www.revenue.ie/en/customs/index.html.


We at Donegal Local Enterprise Office aim to support owner/managers in preparing effectively for first time exporting. We offer advice and mentoring for first time exporters. For further information, please contact Eve Anne McCarron at eveanne.mccarron@leo.donegalcoco.ie. Another useful reference and advisory agency is the Irish Exporters Association at www.irishexporters.ie.

First Flight

Enterprise Ireland’s First Flight Initiative supports businesses considering exporting for the first time through mentoring. For further information on the programme contact Ursula Donnelly at ursula.donnelly@leo.donegalcoco.ie and/or follow this link to find out more about First Flight. http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/Funding-Supports/Company/HPSU-Funding/First-Flight-Initiative.html


InterTradeIreland provides a useful guide ‘Simple guide to cross-border trade’ which provides answers to the most common financial and legal questions in operating cross-border business. http://www.intertradeireland.com/trade_accelerator_vouchers/