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SMALL BUSINESS | SMALL TALK / KAREN E. KLEIN

Wrapping Up a Packaging Deal

June 24, 1997|KAREN E. KLEIN

Q: My firm acts as a consultant to foreign-based Pacific Rim corporations. One of our overseas clients wants to locate a packaging firm that will prepare attractive packages for their spices and condiments to be distributed as gift items to NAFTA countries. How can we find such a firm? What regulations govern such packaging and distribution?

--B.H. Sharma, president

NAFTA/Canada

Trading Service Center, Downey

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A: Several local companies have the capacity to do state-of-the-art packaging for your client. Contact me at (310) 606-0166 for specific recommendations, or come to our office, where we provide research facilities, a computer database, seminars and one-on-one consulting. We are at 222 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 1690, in El Segundo.

As far as whether any regulations govern the substances you plan to import, you should draw up a list of ingredients and contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They can tell you whether any of the items are controlled substances.

--George Perazzo, senior consultant Export Small Business

Development Center

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Q: I own an import company dealing in handcrafted Peruvian tapestries, rugs, ceramics and gift items. My sales have grown quickly since I started the business in 1992, financed by credit cards. I do the overseas buying, selling and all the administrative tasks, and I market through trade shows. My problem is how to handle the growth and how to plan specific steps to achieve my goals. Can you tell me where to find sources to help me?

--Ana M. Sussman

Ole Peru Imports, Inglewood

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A: I spent a year teaching import-export and small-business development in Bolivia and Chile for the Peace Corps, and I have seen many people begin importing on a part-time, rather informal basis. As their business grows, they reach the point where they need to formalize their operations.

It sounds like you need a business plan, if you do not already have one, with a detailed analysis of your gross sales increases since 1992 and projections for your sales. If you are relying on credit cards and do not have capital reserves, you probably will not have the resources to handle additional payroll. So you will need to figure out at what point your business is going to "max out" if you will not be able to hire more staff.

If you are working from your home, consider whether you need to move into an office/showroom.

You definitely need to work with an accountant, if you are not already, who can help put your business plan together. The accountant should have some experience in importing-exporting, even if he or she has only a couple of clients in the field. The best way to find such a person is by talking to other importers at the trade shows you attend and get some local references.

There are agencies that help import-export businesses, and you should be taking advantage of their free and low-cost services. I recommend that you contact the Small Business Development Center in Santa Monica ([310] 398-8883) and arrange to meet with a counselor. The Foreign Trade Assn. ([213] 627-0634) provides seminars on trade issues and referrals for import-exporters. Another resource is the Center for International Trade Development at (909) 629-2247.

--Gary Snow, small-business

instructor, Snow Management

Services Corp., Simi Valley

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Q: How does a businessperson like me find the help she needs after having filed bankruptcy? I own no property except the equipment I use in my business and a car that is too old to get a loan on. I've tried local banks, community groups, churches, friends and family, and the answers are all the same--not enough this or that. What can I do?

--Jessica Monger, Torrance

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A: At least 38 times since I started this business, I have come to the very same place of desperation. There is a hopeless feeling that every businessperson experiences at one time or another when all you know is that you do not know what to do.

I recommend that you ask yourself a serious question: How important is this business to you? If it is not very important to own your own business, this is probably the time to leave. If it is very important, ask yourself why: Is it because you would otherwise have to get a job? Is it because owning a business is the alternative to some line of work you don't enjoy? Is it because you simply do not know what else to do? If your answer is in this vein, again, it is probably time for you to throw in the towel.

But if the answers you come up with truly resound deep inside you, if they are intuitive rather than purely rational, and you know without a doubt that you really must continue on in your business, then you can begin to find a way out of your dilemma.

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