With support from the TNTrade program, Brentwood, TN-based athletic compression sock manufacturer Swiftwick is seeing success from its exporting efforts.
In 2013, Mark Cleveland sat in the audience at the Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development applauding Tennessee companies for their exporting strides. Today, his Brentwood-based athletic compression sock company, Swiftwick, is one of them. That day, Cleveland says, “I stopped asking ‘When?’ and starting thinking ‘Why not now?’” With support from TNTrade, he began pursuing exporting opportunities and recently landed a deal with Canadian retail distributor Rock Gear Distribution.
Q: What motivated you to pursue exporting?
A: We wanted to create a global brand. All we could manage to accomplish was to invest in protecting the domain names of our brand in the countries where we imagined we might someday be. Then we started investing in international trademark protections. To get to revenue, we needed to start developing relationships with potential business partners.
Q: What were the biggest unknowns you faced starting out? How did the TNTrade program help you navigate these?
A: Researching markets, selecting distribution partners, traveling to make connections — these are all expensive, and we knew we needed a coach. TNECD provided us with that. Its Export 101 class helped us frame some of the obstacles and break down our strategy for moving from reactive and unprepared to proactive and purposeful. TNECD offered education, encouragement and gave us a peer group of other small companies also starting from scratch.
Q: How has exporting made your business more competitive?
A: Exporting to partners that do a great job, like Amazon Canada or Ortho Europe in the UK, is exciting. We offer unique products to those partners, and their consumers are excited about them. Thinking through exporting forced us to update our packaging to meet Canada’s French language requirements. We get more competitive when we think. Opportunities come to those who think.