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Q&A: Turning a Thoughtful Gesture into an International Business

Before Daniel Rensing married his wife in October 2010, the long-distance couple found creative ways to keep their bond strong. "When we were dating long distance she used to send me baked goods from New York," he says.

To help his future wife, Rensing, who was working as an electrical sign designer, created an apron in 2009 with a conversion chart printed upside-down on it so she could quickly see measurements while cooking. On a whim, Rensing put the apron on the craft website Etsy.com. Within a few weeks, Rensing received a call from Food NetworkMagazine, which wanted to put his apron in the upcoming November/December issue. Rensing decided it was a great opportunity to launch his business, The Smart Baker in Rockledge, Fla.

With only a few months to prepare, Rensing's uncle directed him to Global Sources - a primary facilitator of trade with Greater China - where he found a manufacturer to make 6,000 aprons in less than two months. A few years later, Rensing is now selling 50 types of products, including cupcake towers, cake pop stands and pre-cut parchment paper and will do at least a half million in sales in 2013.

We started selling two a day, then three, and then I couldn’t keep up with product and going to work, so I went into business for myself.

Learn More About Using Online FX

Choosing to import products from overseas can come with its own set of challenges, which is why it's important to maintain a relationship with a trusted online foreign exchange provider. Foreign exchange providers can help small businesses quickly and easily send money overseas through online wire transfers to international suppliers.

Here are tips from Rensing on importing and doing business in China.

How did you find the right manufacturer?

Rensing:  I posted the project on Global Sources about what I wanted and the quantity I wanted. It got the ball rolling for textile manufacturers overseas. Then all of a sudden I had 60 emails saying, "I can make it at this price." I wasn't sure why this guy said $1 and the other said $4. So you respond back to their initial questions. It's really a matter of who can you understand the best. Some had really broken English.

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From reading the emails you figure out who is more familiar with the product, and you realize the companies that ask more questions know what they are doing. You also can look at their profiles on Global Sources. If someone is making oven mitts, they might be a better fit than someone who makes thermometers. We did a sample process with three companies to find the right one.

How did you know you found the right one?

Rensing:  There's a lot of late nights using Skype to continue the conversations and sort of quiz each company. You eventually take a risk and leap into it.

What process did you use for submitting international payments?

Rensing:  We used Western Union to pay for the samples and freight. We went to Publix (grocery store) and sent the money to China. It was easy, and it only took a couple of dollars to wire the money instead of $60 it takes to wire through the bank.

How did you expand into other product lines?

Rensing:  For our wedding, I created a cupcake tower. Once again we put it on Etsy. We started selling two a day, then three, and then I couldn't keep up with product and going to work, so I went into business for myself. It was a similar situation with our other products. 



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