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Illinois SBDC International Trade Center
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The Illinois State Trade and Export Promotion Program (ISTEP) started as a 3-year pilot trade and export initiative authorized by the federal Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. Under the Act the SBA provided competitive grant funding to states to support export promotion for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).

DCEO’s Office of Trade and Investment (OTI) has won ISTEP grants in each of the first three years of the pilot program. Illinois' STEP funding provides assistance to Illinois SMEs in order to raise the dollar value of export sales from the state. The Illinois' STEP program continues to focus on providing SMEs with financial and technical assistance, including the opportunity to participate in group Trade Missions or Individual Foreign Market Sales Missions. In addition, assistance is also available for Illinois’ SMEs to achieve product compliance certifications.

ISTEP assistance will be provided on a first come, first served basis for all qualifying companies.

4-STEP Options to Help Your Business Grow

Group Trade Missions

Group Trade Missions are available to a limited number of companies. Qualified businesses will receive:

  • OTI financial assistance covering associated costs including: trade show booth fees, group ground transportation, matchmaking fees, interpreters, briefing materials, and assistance with travel logistics
  • ISTEP financial assistance for 50-75% travel cost reimbursement, not to exceed $5,000 for travel per company
  • Partial travel reimbursement for only two Illinois company representatives, which includes economy class air fare and standard hotel room not to exceed the applicable rate established by the general services administration for federal agencies

Individual Foreign Market Sales Missions

Businesses outside of the sectors represented in the scheduled ISTEP Group Trade Missions are encouraged to undertake an Individual Foreign Market Sales Mission. Qualified businesses will receive:

  • ISTEP financial assistance for 50-75%, not to exceed $7,500 toward approved program and travel costs
  • Program costs can include gold key services such as matchmaking and trade show participation
  • Partial travel reimbursement for only one Illinois company representative, which includes economy class air fare and standard hotel room not to exceed the applicable rate established by the General Services Administration for federal agencies

Product Compliance Certification

ISTEP financial assistance is available to help Illinois’ small and medium-sized businesses obtain compliance certification services for their products. Financial assistance is available for measures taken to comply with foreign regulations including those for agricultural products, ISO registration, and packing and recycling laws. Qualified businesses will receive:

  • ISTEP financial assistance for 50% of costs, not to exceed $5,000
  • The International Trade Administration’s listing of certifications will be used as a guide. This list can be found on the website by clicking here.

International Marketing Support

Financial assistance is available for website translation services, brand development and overall foreign (country specific) website development to companies to increase opportunities for export success.

  • Financial assistance for 50% of costs, not to exceed $3,000 per company.

Is your business eligible?

Illinois businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • In operation for at least one year with 500 employees or less
  • Minimum of $250,000 in annual revenue for U.S. operations, or substantially contributes to Illinois job creation and/or retention efforts as determined by OTI
  • Demonstrates an understanding of the costs associated with exporting
  • Exports products and/or services that contain at least 51% USA and 25% Illinois content, or in the opinion of the OTI, the products and or services to be promoted substantially contribute to Illinois job creation/retention efforts
  • OTI has determined the company has a sound strategy for exporting and is export ready

For complete details regarding the ISTEP Program, please visit this link, or contact the International Trade Center at 618.650.3851 or via e-mail at

---------Application Instructions---------

Click Here for an application (requires most recent version of Adobe Reader. If you receive a warning from your Internet browser asking you to keep or discard the download file, please select "Keep" to proceed with the application download.

If you have an electronic signature on file, please fill in all necessary fields and click "Submit" to send via Outlook or similar email application to

If you do not have an electronic signature, please fill in all necessary fields and print the application. After signing the paper version, please mail or fax to the ITC.

International Trade Center
Box 1107
Edwardsville, IL 62026-1107
Fax: (618)650-2647

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 Video: Strategies for Growth
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The Illinois SBDC International Trade Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a service to Illinois small businesses

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