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Q&A: Promote Your Online Presence

Growing up, Jessica McGuinty always hated her tangled mass of red curly hair. Now they are the secret to her success and the foundation for her international business, Jessicurl, a six-employee curly-hair products company based in Arcata, Calif.

After swapping stories about the perils of curly hair with other women in chat rooms, McGuinty found that they all were looking for the same thing: something to tame the frizz minus moisture-stripping chemicals. McGuinty began making products in her kitchen in 2002, and today Jessicurl works out of a 6,000-square-foot warehouse where McGuinty manufactures 11 products - from styling gel to shampoo - which she exports to foreign markets.

Small business owners who export products can make it easier for their customers to pay on time by recommending they send online money transfers via a trusted online foreign exchange service. Such services make it easy to track the status of international payments - so there's no question when funds will arrive.

Get your payment before you ship, no matter who they are.

Learn More About Using Online FX

McGuinty shares her story of starting an export business and catering to foreign customers.

How did you start your international business? 

McGuinty: I had come across a really basic recipe for hair gel made out of flaxseed. I thought to myself, "If I made my own, I wouldn't have to buy all this stuff anymore." That particular recipe didn't work out, but I was intrigued, and I learned about other ingredients, like aloe vera and jojoba oil. I just learned about all these things and then thought, "What if I put all these other good things together?" It was a total miracle.

Starting a business was the last thing on my mind. I went back to [the women in the chat rooms] and said, "I solved your problems ladies," and then people started asking for it.

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How did you grow your company from there?

McGuinty: It's all word-of-mouth and very guerilla style. We really don't do traditional advertising at all. It's all on the Internet. The blogging community is very influential. They'll write and ask for samples. We spend our marketing budget on samples.

How did you make the leap to doing business overseas?

McGuinty: The first international customer we had was in Denmark. They found us. That was in 2003 or 2004, very early on, and I was still making the products in my kitchen. They have a website in Denmark selling products to people with curly hair.

We have not actively sought out any overseas customers. It's all word-of-mouth online. Wholesalers see there's activity around this product, and their customers often write them saying, "I want to buy Jessicurl. Can you please carry it?"

How has customer service helped build your export business?

McGuinty: I have just led with honesty this entire time. I'm totally figuring this out as I go, one thing at a time. I kind of think that at the end of the day what it really comes down to is just being friendly, honest, authentic and polite.  

Are there any other specific customer service lessons that have been helpful to your business?

McGuinty: Shipping is always an issue, and international shipping is so expensive. We don't charge extra for handling. We just charge for our real, actual costs.

Do you have any foreign currency advice?

McGuinty: You just have to have your policies in place. Get your payment before you ship, no matter who they are.

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