Several small businesses that rely on EXIM's trade finance tools to successfully sell their products worldwide were on hand as EXIM's Advisory Committee held its first meeting recently, offering advice on how other companies can replicate their success and grow through exporting.
Archana Sharma, CEO of AKAS Textiles, serves as a member of the Advisory Committee. The woman- and minority-owned small business designs and produces textiles in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, with a focus on sustainable manufacturing and environmentally friendly fabrics. An EXIM customer since 2013, it was named EXIM Exporter of the Year in 2021.
In her comments, she discussed the need to educate other small businesses about EXIM’s trade finance tools: “My goal is to serve and to make EXIM more known to small businesses." After AKAS Textiles began using EXIM financing, she added, "we were able to start exporting fabrics, which are now known all over the world.”
Also serving on the Advisory Committee is Venkee Sharma, Chairman & CEO of Aquatech International. The minority-owned small business headquartered in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, is a global leader in water purification systems and wastewater treatment technology. An EXIM customer since 1991, it was named EXIM Exporter of the Year in 2009.
In his remarks, he highlighted the critical role EXIM plays in a whole-of-government approach to exporting: “As a small business, we could have never become an exporter without the support of the Bank. … The Bank enables small businesses to reach the world. We’ve done work in facilities in 60 countries, all with EXIM support.”
The 2022-2023 Advisory Committee advises EXIM on its policies and programs, in particular on how EXIM provides competitive financing to support American jobs through exports. The committee is composed of 17 members — including Archana Sharma and Venkee Sharma — who represent agriculture, environment, production, commerce, finance, labor, services, state government, and the textile industry.
“I am very much looking forward to the year ahead with our Advisory Committee as we continue to advance EXIM initiatives like Make More in America,” said EXIM Chair Reta Jo Lewis. “The recommendations and expertise from committee members are integral as EXIM enters into a new era defined by increased transparency, accountability, and modernization.”
EXIM Council on Small Business
In addition to the Advisory Committee, EXIM recently established four subcommittees, including the Council on Small Business, which will provide recommendations on ways EXIM can help more American small business exporters find new markets, achieve more sales, and lower the risk of selling internationally. It consists of 18 members, including two small business leaders who currently use EXIM financing:
- Wei-Shin Lai, CEO of AcousticSheep, a woman- and minority-owned company based in Erie, Pennsylvania, that manufactures headphones designed for sleeping and running. An EXIM customer since 2017, it was named EXIM Exporter of the Year in 2020.
- Kathie Leonard, President and CEO of Auburn Manufacturing, a woman-owned company based in Mechanic Falls, Maine, that produces high performance textiles for extreme temperature protection.
The Council on Small Business will be co-chaired by Nancy Flake Johnson, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, and Bob Dreisewerd, President and CEO of Baron Weather Inc.
In her opening comments, Nancy Flake Johnson underscored the importance of small businesses, particularly those owned by minorities and women, to the U.S. economy: “We’re here to leverage the opportunity to grow small minority- and women-owned businesses, as well as big ones. We have an opportunity to create jobs and, in doing so, to tap into the untapped talents of this thriving, robust, eager-to-expand sector of our nation."
To find out how EXIM can help your business tap into the opportunities that exporting offers, schedule a free consultation with a trade finance specialist today.