International shipping solutions for small-business challenges
What's holding you back? These resources can help with export challenges.
When requests for product started rolling in from other countries, Michael Acerra of educational toy company Lux Blox didn’t want to leave opportunities on the table — but the prospect of shipping internationally was daunting.
Michael’s first exporting experience was typical. “Right off the bat, we got an order from Spain. We weren’t really ready to consider markets outside the United States, but we did it anyway because we were taking any comers,” he says. “The first shipment [via the U.S. Postal Service] was lost, and we ate the cost of that. Then we sent it again and it finally went through.”
Since then, Lux Blox — a 2019 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest winner — has made several international shipments via FedEx, with many more on the horizon. Michael says that he’s learned a lot already from his experiences, but becoming an export expert is a work in progress.
Sound familiar? If you see promise in going global but are hesitant because of knowledge gaps and potential hurdles, take heart. FedEx provides resources to help entrepreneurs take the leap with confidence.
7 FedEx resources to overcome your international shipping challenges
The FedEx Trade Road Map helps you assess whether exporting is right for your business and, if so, takes you through the essential steps to ship internationally.
It also contains links to resources that can help you get a handle on key aspects of exporting, such as understanding in advance who's going to be responsible for what duties and tax charges — you, your shipper, the seller in the other country or the end consumer. Those decisions are important because unexpected charges could erode your profit margins.
If you prefer in-person training, you can gain knowledge and advice on exporting at one of our FedEx Know and Grow seminars. Check the schedule and register for upcoming events.
“The number one thing with exporting is to make sure you understand the destination,” Michael says. “Customs in Vietnam is going to be way different than Finland. We want to know we have all our ducks in a row when that truck comes to pick it up.”
Every country and territory has its own unique culture, along with a set of rules and regulations you’ll need to learn about before you ship. An excellent source for country-specific info about duty and tax information is WorldTariff. This online FedEx resource offers instant access to a single duty rate or to the entire world — collecting the latest data from government sources around the globe, deciphering the information and translating it into English.
“When we think about shipping to a new country, our main pain point is, ‘Are we doing it right?’” Michael says. “Are we missing something? Is this going to get hung up in customs because we forgot one detail?”
A good place to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed by shipment preparation is FedEx International Shipping Assist. The online program provides assistance with every step of the process, access to resources and tutorials, plus answers to frequently asked questions.
“It can be daunting when you look up the cost of shipping a package to another country,” Michael says. “We get calls from people all over the world asking us to ship a sample of our product. And for, say, a 5-pound box going to Cairo, it could be $240.”
For a last-minute shipment, you may be able to access discounted rates using the FedEx Great Rates Hotline. “I’ve used it, and it’s wonderful,” Michael says. “It was a great discount.”
“When we realized people overseas were interested in our product, we had to think differently about packaging our shipments,” Michael says.
International shipments will be handled potentially many more times on their journey than domestic packages. If a product does get damaged in transit, returns will take longer and cost more than U.S. returns, so secure, protective packaging is a must. For higher-value items, the FedEx Packaging Lab can provide testing, design assistance and custom engineering guidance to help you right-size and provide optimal protection with your packaging.
Still can’t find a solution to your issue? Email this group of regulatory knowledge experts for complimentary assistance with your exporting or customs questions.
Preparation brings peace of mind
It all adds up to feeling confident when that package or pallet leaves the warehouse. “Shipping internationally can be a nightmare,” Michael says. “When our USPS shipment to Spain was lost, we were told afterwards, ‘Oh yeah, that's Spain, the black hole.’ But it doesn’t have to be that way. We've had nothing but success with FedEx.”