GOOD OUTLOOK: 941 Australian small businesses from 19 sectors undertook international activities in more than 90 overseas markets last year.
GOOD OUTLOOK: 941 Australian small businesses from 19 sectors undertook international activities in more than 90 overseas markets last year. Supplied

Small business exports expected to rise in 2018

SMALL business exporters are predicted to have a year of strong growth in 2018, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has revealed.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said Australia's International Business Survey 2017 showed there was greater confidence among businesses that are already exporting.

In agriculture and wholesaling, two thirds of businesses believed the outlook was better than the previous two years.

China, the United States and United Kingdom have been identified as markets where strong revenue growth will occur.

The survey, commissioned by the Export Council of Australia with support from Austrade, Efic and UTS, reflected the opinions of 941 firms from 19 sectors who undertook international activities in more than 90 overseas markets.

"Australia is seeing increased growth in exports and small businesses are leading the way," Ms Carnell said.

"Nearly 88 per cent of Australian exporters are small-medium enterprises.

"An increasing number of firms are 'born global', which means they're exporting at the very beginning."

Ms Carnell said the survey findings matched Efic's exporter sentiment index from August, which showed two thirds of respondents expected future sales revenue to increase.

"Potential exporters need to know there is support available from Austrade and Efic to research their markets, make connections and obtain finance," she said.

"Over the past three years, Efic has worked with more than 262 small businesses and provided more than $350 million in financial support.

"Efic is the Australian Government's export credit agency. It operates on a commercial basis and partners with banks.

"It's a model I believe should also be looked at for small business finance more broadly."

AIBS 2017 showed more than one third of respondents had applied for finance and nearly 40 per cent of these were unsuccessful.

Ms Carnell said this illustrates the challenge for small businesses to obtain capital from traditional banks, which require property as security.

"It's great that more entrepreneurs are getting started with exports, but rapidly growing small businesses need sources of finance that don't require putting the family home on the line," she said.

Ms Carnell said the 2017 Australian Export Awards showcased positive case studies, including small business category winner, Tooletries.

Funded by private capital and a Kickstarter campaign, Tooletries designs and manufactures bathroom accessories such as mirrors, toothbrush and razor holders and wall organisers that can be fixed to vertical surfaces with the company's patented silicone technology.

The company's products are stocked in more than 1500 retail stores and supermarkets across the US, and are available in Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and the UK.

Exports made up 100 per cent of the firm's sales revenue in 2016-17.