Exporting Basics

Why Hawaii companies should be exporting

  • Hawaii is a small market, so growth is limited if businesses sell only locally
  • 95% of world’s consumers are outside of the U.S.
  • Exporting can help diversify the client base and grow Hawaii companies

Exporting is a vital economic driver for Hawaii. In 2015, Hawaii exports (not including tourism) totaled $5.8 billion, including both goods and services.

Each billion dollars of exports from Hawaii generates:

  • Sales generated = $1.65 billion
  • Household income generated = $392 million
  • State taxes generated = $69 million
  • Jobs generated = 9,463

Hawaii imports more than it exports, a situation which negatively impacts Hawaii’s economy even when the other components of the economy are doing well. Therefore we need to reverse this trend in order to truly grow our economy.

Over the last several years, DBEDT and its partners have developed an export growth strategy for increasing the number of exporters in the state and Hawaii’s export volume. This strategy is built on a multifaceted approach that begins with comprehensive export assistance, readiness, training and counseling that leads into a menu of targeted activities designed to generate new export sales for participating small businesses from key industry sectors.

DBEDT works with several partners who provide export training and workshops year-round such as the Hawaii Pacific Export Council, the U.S. Commercial Service – Hawaii OfficeU.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration, Hawaii District Office. The Small Business Development Centers are located on each of the major islands and offer one-on-one counseling for companies interested in exporting. The U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Department of Commerce also periodically offers seminars about opportunities in specific geographic markets. Check the individual websites for schedules. For custom duties and other incentives for exporters see the Foreign Trade Zone Program

DBEDT organizes industry oriented tradeshow participation and missions targeting Hawaii companies that supply agricultural and value-added products; lifestyle fashion, apparel and accessories; gift and consumer products (personal gifts and beauty products); and Hawaii companies in the biotechnology sector. Check DBEDT’s Business Development and Support Division’s Upcoming Events for more information.


exporting-hawaii-fashion-in-japanDBEDT showcased some of Hawaii’s leading apparel companies as well as rising stars of local designers at the JFW International Fashion Fair in Tokyo, Japan, on three occasions: July 18-20, 2012; January 23-25, 2013; January 22-24, 2014. Hawaii’s lifestyle and fashions truly captured the essence and spirit of the islands. This project was funded, in part, through a grant that DBEDT received from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Successes in Japan included: major Japan retailer licensing Hawaii designs for worldwide product launch; accessory and children’s lines featured in boutiques through Japan; Hawaii themed logo products researched for major Japan character/mascot promotion; numerous small purchases by Japan wholesalers. These sales provided a fantastic entrée for Hawaii fashions into the international Japan market.


exporting hawaii board sportDBEDT kicked off the new year with the first-ever Hawaii Pavilion at Surf Expo, January 8-10, 2015, in Orlando, Florida. Surf Expo is the longest running and largest boardsports and beach/resort lifestyle tradeshow in the world. The 1,600-square foot pavilion featured 20 Hawaii companies with a range of products from surf and SUP boards, to waterwear and resort apparel, to gift and souvenir items. These Hawaii companies marketed products to buyers representing more than 7,000 storefronts from the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Caribbean.



Japan gift show, booth with pensDBEDT has organized a contingent of Hawaii companies to promote Hawaii-made products for the past three consecutive years. In 2014, a diverse group of over 50 small- and medium-sized Hawaii companies showcased their unique gift products at the Tokyo International Gift Show in Tokyo, Japan. The Hawaii companies promoted their products to over 200,000 Japanese and international buyers. The Hawaii Pavilion was the anchor exhibitor in the East Hall of the gift show and Hawaii companies reported over $6.5 million in sales a result of their participation.