WILKES-BARRE — Mia Bella fragrances have drifted to the shores of South Korea, United Kingdom and Germany with trade advisers from The Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance guiding the way through the sea of market research and export forms.
Five years ago, Robert Scocozzo, chief executive officer, and Charles Umphred, vice president, of Scent-Sations Inc., Wilkes-Barre, met up with trade advisers through an annual international trade event called, “Bringing the World to Northeastern Pennsylvania,” hosted by the NEPA Alliance.
It was one of the best business decisions they made, Scocozzo said.
With nervous excitement, Scocozzo said he and Charles Umphred met and gave out free candle samples to trade advisers from five different countries.
Today, Mia Bella candles, made in Wilkes-Barre, grace the shelves of one of South Korea’s major retail store, and recently received a letter of interest from the largest wholesaler of Yankee Candles in Japan.
To open the doors of exporting product to overseas markets, Scocozzo encourages area businesses to attend the upcoming “Bringing the World to Northeastern Pennsylvania” trade event on Sept. 22, in the Convention Center at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Wilkes-Barre.
The 16th annual international trade event will offer local businesses from seven counties, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Carbon, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill and Wayne, to meet with trade advisers from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, to find markets for locally-made products.
Michael Horvath, international business manager with the NEPA Alliance, said business owners pre-register, choosing which countries they are interested in.
“You do not know who the trade advisers know who are looking for a product,” said Horvath.
Scocozzo recalled his first meeting with trade advisers. He compared it to speed dating, saying he had 20 minutes with his chosen trade advisers and gave out samples to cement his company in their memory.
“I was excited,” he said. “What if we become the greatest thing since sliced bread — somewhere.”
After meeting with area businesses, Horvath said the trade advisers will research the product’s demand and value in their home countries. This information is then presented to the business owners to review and determine whether to pursue it. It is like every company gets an extra staff of about 22 people, assisting them in to enter oversea marketplaces.
“They are not here to be a distributor but an adviser to help companies see where they fit in, depending on product price and competition,” Horvath said.
The process to exporting goods should not be rushed. Both Horvath and Scocozzo agreed business should take it slow and note it could take more than one meeting with an adviser to foster a relationship with the targeted county and market.
“We would have never known what forms to fill out,” Scocozzo said.
Horvath advises business owners to start small, “get a feel for the program and build up the process.” He noted it could take seven years to analyze three overseas markets.
Scocozzo said to develop the export relationship with South Korea, it took several meetings with their Korean trade adviser discussing the paper trail, marketing research and exporting requirements.
“Korea is very easy to work with,” Scocozzo said. “We had to design special red, white and blue Made in America labels made for the front of the jars.”
Other requirements to ship his products overseas are the use of plastic or treated wood pallets, which eliminates the possibility of exporting invasive insects embedded in untreated wood.
“Made in America” still carries weight, as Scocozzo found out American goods still carry a reputation of being quality products.
Noting only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States, giving small area businesses the opportunity to expand to foreign markets creates a sustainable business plan with the possibility of new local jobs, Horvath said.
“Mike and his team are great,” Scocozzo said. “They are making it possible for us to become an international company.”