Branding seminar will help local ag producers enter world market



Big corporations spend millions on branding and marketing their products in the international market. An entrepreneur doesn’t need a fancy advertising firm and a huge bank account to break into the world market.

Small, local agricultural businesses looking to enter the international market and create their own brands can learn more at a free seminar from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Kachemak Community Center.

Sponsored by the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association and the Alaska Division of Agriculture, the event is free to local producers — growers, fishermen, seafood processors, beverage makers, woodworkers and anyone growing agricultural products or adding value to them. 

That pretty much describes the growers at the Homer Farmers Market as well as many of the crafts people with booths there.

“It has to be something that comes from the land or the sea,” said Rita Jo Shoultz, owner of Alaska Perfect Peony and one of the seminar organizers. “If you’ve improved the product, that’s OK.”

Small businesses and entrepreneurs sometimes think marketing internationally can be too much for them. That’s the biggest barrier to going international, said John Spiers of Seattle.

The author of “How Small Business Trades Worldwide,” Spiers presents “Opportunities for Agribusiness Abroad and How to Enter the Global Market,” a talk on how to find customers and how to make export as safe and easy as domestic sales.

“What I show them is the tactics, the tools and the tactics,” Spiers said. “It’s an absolute blast to go help others and get their companies launched as well.”

Spiers, 60, got his start in the import-export business in 1974, when he started work at a Seattle company looking to enter the Chinese market.

“It was the right place at the right time,” Spiers said. “(President Richard) Nixon had gone to China and the Chinese didn’t know who was what.”

In 1984, Spiers went into business for himself. Later he started teaching as an adjunct lecturer. His latest project is exporting natural, undyed wool from New Zealand.

Finding a customer is the key to going international, Spiers said.

“The one thing everybody has to have is a customer. If you’ve got a customer, everything will fall into place,” he said. “It’s basic stuff, but it encourages people to have somebody come up and say it, show it step-by-step.”

Under WUSATA’s Branded Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agricultural’s Market Access Program, qualifying small agricultural businesses can get assistance in marketing products abroad. They can get up to 50 percent cost reimbursement on promotional expenses. Those expenses can include translation services, attending international trade shows and trade missions, advertising and making packaging and label modifications. 

Another WUSATA service, the Generic Program, offers assistance for trade activities like having booths at international trade shows, setting up one-on-one meetings with qualified buyers and attending WUSATA seminars like the Homer event. For more information on WUSATA programs, visit

Shoultz said even if an agricultural business isn’t yet ready to go overseas, the information on branding and marketing would be helpful for local and U.S. markets.

“Branding is something you can use,” Shoultz said. “Marketing is marketing.”

Stiers said entrepreneurs shouldn’t be intimidated by expanding their vision and their markets.

“If you get your ducks in a row, you can find the customer,” he said.

The trick is to make the international sale as well as the domestic sale.

“You open the market to the whole world,” Stiers said.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at

Explore Exporting: Branding and the Global Market


9 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Aug. 20


Kachemak Community Center 

Mile 3 East End Road


Learn about branding agricultural products and entering the global market


Sponsored by the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA) and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture


• John Spiers, author of “How Small Business Trades Worldwide”; 

• Amy Pettit, Alaska Department of Natural Resources; and

• Janet Kenefsky-Henderson, WUSATA

Other info:

Open to any agricultural business, including food and flower growers, fishermen and seafood producers; beverage and processed food companies; wood product companies and others

Reservations required; register by Aug. 15

Contact: Rita Jo Shoultz, 235-8768 or 235-8116, email