By Jayne Armstrong | Director, Iowa District, U.S. Small Business Administration
This guest submission is the second of several that will be offered by Jayne Armstrong throughout 2018. Armstrong’s goal with each submission is to highlight successful female business owners throughout Iowa, and the lessons they learned on their way to success.
A key to entrepreneurial success is to focus on what you love to do best. No one knows this better than Alicia Jaime (pictured), president of International Veterinary Supplies, and her partners Jorge Aponte and Jose Samaniego.
The partners emigrated from Argentina and Venezuela to work for a Des Moines location of a veterinarian supply business that eventually closed its Iowa operations. With a love for their new homeland and more than 70 years of combined experience in the veterinary supply industry, the entrepreneurs embraced their expertise to pursue the American Dream.
More than three years later, IVS distributes its American-made products to veterinarian clinics worldwide, including Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Central and South America, Japan, and several countries in the Middle East and Europe. Although exports currently represent 100 percent of its sales, IVS is now focusing on opening domestic markets to position it for future growth.
IVS’ increased sales and growth strategy led to its recognition as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2018 Iowa Exporter of the Year, as well as Regional Exporter of the Year, among other winners from Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. It was nominated for the award by Becky Fluegge, vice president and government guaranteed lending manager at Bankers Trust.
“Being able to work with Bankers Trust as our main partner in this venture, as well as getting all the support from SBA, IEDA and all the organizations that were just right there to help us, is what made this dream possible,” Jaime said. “This is not just about business; this is changing people’s lives.”
From the startup phase, Jaime turned to Bankers Trust to establish a financial partnership. Jaime recognized from the beginning that small business success depends on a strong banking relationship. As a local community bank, Bankers Trust provides hands-on services such as checking, savings and lending. Yet it also offered a team of international experts who understood their import/export needs such as wire transfers and international payment services.
Bankers Trust financed IVS’ working capital needs and growth with two SBA Export Express loans. The government-guaranteed program offers term loans or revolving lines of credit up to $500,000 to enhance a company’s export development.
Financing is just one part of IVS’ entrepreneurial equation. Sustainability also depends on research, planning, networking and utilizing all the available resources from the startup through growth stages. Jaime has also taken advantage of training offered through the SBA Women’s Business Center at the Iowa Center for Economic Success and networking opportunities through her ties to the Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
State government programs have also played a critical role in IVS’ success. IVS turned to the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s International Trade Office for a research project with the state’s Mexico office. It also accessed its export grant program to fund its participation in a trade show in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the World Pork Expo in Des Moines this year. The program is funded in part by the SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program, a partnership of federal and state funding to expand small business exports.
With a new focus on expanding its domestic client base, IVS was recently certified in IEDA’s Targeted Small Business program. The TSB program supports women, minorities, service-disabled veterans and individuals with disabilities to open doors to state purchasing and corporate supplier diversity opportunities.
Jaime also worked with the local International Trade Administration office to try to identify potential distributors in Central and South America through the Department of Commerce’s wide range of services.
Taking the time to research and utilize available resources is often the difference between small business success and failure. Programs and services offered by their bank, business organizations and federal and state agencies have supported Jaime and her partners’ efforts to pursue the American Dream. With the foundation in place, IVS is poised for sustainability and future expansion.