In 2003, Chris Phillips, along with his brother and a childhood friend, took a good idea and turned it into a successful small business, Sun Surveillance. The company based in Spartanburg, South Carolina, manufactures wireless solar-powered security cameras, each system specifically designed to meet customer needs. They’re used around the world to protect people and secure billions in assets — monitoring everything from nuclear plants, electrical sub stations, and oil refineries to airports, parks, and wildlife.
In the early days, Chris and his team worked from a living room and a rented garage, but success soon led to a leap of faith when they quit their previous jobs to chart a new course. They also followed the business adage that doing things the hard way eventually becomes the easy way — and that’s what they want the process to be for their customers.
“If you start out doing things the easy way and trying to cut corners, that way eventually becomes the hard way,” said Chris, now President of Sun Surveillance. “You start off doing things right, the hard way, and we’re building and gaining momentum with our intellectual property, with our technology that allows us to serve the customer better from the standpoint of, when you call to get a quote, we want it to be easy.”
Chris Phillips and Jose Correa of Sun Surveillance discuss their experience exporting with EXIM support. You also can view the company's story here.
Eliminating the Fear Factor in Exporting
That domestic success, coupled with the nature of the security systems, quickly led Sun Surveillance to realize its product was well suited for the global market.
When it comes to developing international business, the biggest challenge is building trust with customers across long distances , said Jose Correa, Business Development Manager for Sun Surveillance. Before the company began using Export Credit Insurance from the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) in 2016, it required international customers to pay 100 percent upfront — a tough sell for fostering those relationships.
“At the beginning, it was very challenging talking to customers overseas, getting them to pay us ahead of time,” Jose explained. “You’re building trust overseas. You’re spending time with these customers. And at the end, the last thing you want to say is, “Hey, send us $20,000, send us $30,000, $100,000,” whatever the product cost would be. So EXIM eliminates that by allowing us to be able to have credit insurance, vetting that customer overseas, and allowing us not to have to necessarily ask for an upfront fee or paying for the product ahead of time. And it builds that relationship even stronger.”
With the protection of an export credit insurance policy in place, Sun Surveillance was reassured that if anything went wrong during the exporting process, the company would still be paid for its product.
“For any small business out there treading, and wanting to tread, internationally, I would advise them to reach out to EXIM,” Jose said. “They will take out that fear factor of not knowing what happens when your container or your product is boxed and shipped. They’re there to support you through the whole process. And it takes away the nail-biting time of when you’re shipping a product.”
Sun Surveillance manufactures and exports wireless solar-powered security cameras to protect people and property around the world.
A Game Changing Partnership
It’s been nearly two decades since that good idea struck. Sun Surveillance now has more than 20 employees, and it has exported to markets in Africa, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America. Exporting has become a key component of the company’s growth strategy.
“Exporting is about 20 percent of our business at this point,” said Chris. “We truly see exporting continuing to grow and being eventually the largest part of our business. EXIM will be instrumental in helping us to facilitate that international growth.”
Since 2016, EXIM has supported more than $1.2 million in exports for Sun Surveillance, with its export credit insurance for renewable energy and environmentally beneficial exports. The company’s policies are facilitated by EXIM broker Meridian Finance Group, a Texel Company, headquartered in Los Angeles with offices nationwide.
“Partnering with EXIM for international business is a game changer for us. It’s that simple. It’s a game changer,” said Chris. “I look back all the time at that experience in the garage, and I would’ve never in a million years imagined where we would be today. We’re now securing facilities for Fortune 500 companies, both internationally and domestically.”
To find out how EXIM can be a game changer for your business as it competes in the global marketplace, schedule a free consultation with a trade finance specialist and launch your export journey today.