Hawaii State Trade Expansion Program (HiSTEP)

HiSTEP Overview

The world is open for business… your business! Today it’s easier than ever for companies, regardless of size, to sell goods and services across the globe. Hawaii is an internationally recognized brand that helps make its products and services attractive to buyers throughout the world.

Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Hawaii’s State Trade Expansion Program, known as HiSTEP, is a multifaceted program designed to assist Hawaii small businesses with their export development. The program is administered by DBEDT and partner organizations in Hawaii.

SBA started STEP in FY 2011 as a three-year pilot program with a goal to increase the number of small businesses that want to export as well as the value of exports for those small businesses that currently export. SBA awards matching-funds STEP grants to states on a competitive basis.

View the press release for the 2017 launch of HiSTEP.

Watch the following videos to learn more about the HiSTEP Program:


HiSTEP Benefits

Success metrics for Hawaii-based companies using HiSTEP include, but are not limited to:

  • Expanded exports
  • Boosted revenue
  • Active in more global markets
  • Penetration of new markets


HiSTEP Eligibility

Companies must meet the following requirements:

  • Meet the federal requirements of an ‘Eligible Small Business Concern’ (organized or incorporated and operating in the U.S., meet SBA small business size standards, one year in business, has access to sufficient resources to bear the costs associated with trade)
  • Certify that your company is not barred from receiving federal funds
  • Be registered in good standing with the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Business Registration Division at vendors.ehawaii.gov
  • Have a current general excise tax license with the State Department of Taxation


HiSTEP Registration

  1. Determine if your company meets the Eligibility Requirements
  2. Complete the online HiSTEP application
  3. Download and complete the SBA Self Representation Form and SBA Form 1624, then email both forms to Jamie.K.Lum@hawaii.gov


HiSTEP Components

The Hawaii State Trade Expansion Program (HiSTEP) has three integrated components:

  1. HiSTEP – Export Readiness Program (HiSTEP-ERP)
  2. HiSTEP – Hawaii Pavilions (HiSTEP-HP)
  3. HiSTEP – Company Assistance (HiSTEP-CA)


1. HiSTEP – Export Readiness Program (HiSTEP-ERP)

Training programs to prepare Hawaii companies to begin or expand their export market development.

The Export Readiness Training is a foundation program that is open to all types of businesses considering exporting. It will cover general background as well as country and issue specific topics. At the conclusion of the program, companies will have a go-to-market strategy and export plan.

The following training sessions are currently planned for 2017. All sessions will be held at FTZ NO 9 (Homer Maxey Intl Trade Center). Note: most of the courses are offered on Oahu with remote conferencing facilities set up for neighbor island companies.

To register for HiSTEP programs complete the online HiSTEP application.

Session NameDescriptionDate and TimeRegistration Link
HiSTEP IntroductionHalf-day overview of all the components of Hi-STEP and opportunities for your company.

Download the HiSTEP Powerpoint Presentation
Watch the HiSTEP Introduction on You Tube!
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Japan Marketing and Trade for Hawaii CompaniesJapan has specific import protocol and business customs different from other importing countries. Session will provide the Japan market specific intel (Food Sanitation Law, Animal and Plant Quarantine Law, etc.) as presented by the Hawaii Department of Agricultural and a JETRO certified trade advisor to companies specifically looking at Japan market.

View the Japan Marketing Presentation and Video
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Export University 101A comprehensive training seminar that will help you learn the nuts and bolts of exporting while developing a global strategy for your business. Get first-hand knowledge from the experts, while taking charge of your unique and personalized International Business Plan to grow your international business successfully. From industry experts to our very knowledgeable community partners, Export University will help small businesses that are new to exporting as well as those with a blossoming international business to identify the best markets for your products or services and the steps needed to connect with new customers worldwide.

View the Export University 101 Presentation and Video
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Scaling Up Your Business Operations for ExportingAs Hawaii companies expand into global markets, attention needs to be paid to meeting increased orders (manufacturing) and establishing procedures to service customers overseas. Presented by Innovate Hawaii/HTDC and the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

View the Scaling Up Your Business for Exporting Presentation and Video
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LogisticsLearn about how to get your product from Point A to Point B, and each of the places in between. The seminar will cover international shipping, packaging, insurance, logistics providers, dealing with customs, and more.

View the Logistics Presentation and Video
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MarketingLearn how to market your products effectively in international markets and how to connect with the right buyers or partners.

View the Export Marketing Presentation and Video
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LegalLearn about key legal considerations as you engage your business with new partners or overseas markets. Topics covered may include: contracts, export documentation, export licenses, foreign corrupt practices act, protecting intellectual property, and regulations. 

View the Legal Presentation and Video
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FinanceLearn all about export financing, including common methods of payment, export credit insurance, U.S. government financing programs, and more.Tuesday
Register before 05/13/2017
TaiwanTaiwan has a population of 23.5 million and following a period of stable economic growth, U.S. goods and services more attractive than ever to Taiwan buyers. Learn about opportunities for Hawaii businesses in Taiwan.Wednesday
Register before 05/15/2017
CanadaLearn about the exciting prospects for Hawaii companies in the Canadian market. Hear about the best opportunities for Hawaii businesses, how to do business effectively, avoid common pitfalls, and connect with the best partners and buyers in key sub-markets in Canada.Thursday
Register before 06/12/2017
Trade Shows: Tokyo International Gift ShowLearn how to prepare for the Tokyo International Gift Show and how to convert promising new contacts into sales. Also included: proper business etiquette, understanding Japanese regulations, marketing, and building relationships. 

View the TIGS event flyer
Register before 06/24/2017
Cultural TopicsIn doing business internationally, culture is king. Learn how to understand the business culture of key markets like China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and others. Also learn the keys to understanding a country’s culture and how it relates to doing business there.Thursday
Register before 08/14/2017


2. HiSTEP – Hawaii Pavilions (HiSTEP-HP)

DBEDT and partners such as the Hawaii Department of Agricultural organize groups of Hawaii companies to participate in major trade shows in a Hawaii pavilion. To date, Hawaii Pavilions are planned for the following Trade Shows for 2017:

  • FOODEX Japan, March 7-10, 2017, Tokyo, Japan
  • National Restaurant Association Show, May 20-23, 2017, Chicago, IL
  • International Food and Ingredients Show, May 24-26, 2017, Tokyo, Japan
  • BIO International Convention and Exhibition, June 19-22, 2017, San Diego, CA
  • Hawaii Expo 2017 at Shibuya Hikarie, July 15-17, 2017, Tokyo, Japan
  • Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, July 26-29, 2017, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Tokyo International Gift Show, September 6-8, 2017, Tokyo, Japan

To apply for Hawaii Expo 2017 at Shibuya Hikarie, July 15-17, 2017, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, July 26-29, 2017 and Tokyo International Gift Show, September 6-8, 2017, please complete the Hawaii Pavilions Application.

For more information on the above trade shows, please contact Jamie Lum at Jamie.K.Lum@hawaii.gov.


3. HiSTEP – Company Assistance (HiSTEP-CA)

Note: the deadline has passed and HiSTEP-CA is now closed for 2017. Please check back at the end of 2017 or early 2018 for updates.

HiSTEP-CA assists individual Hawaii companies with export market development costs. Application proposals may request a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $15,000. Award funds will be limited to the following uses:

  1. Airfare (consistent with Fly America guidelines) to approved trade show(s) or multiple buyer meetings (minimum 6 meetings);
  2. Trade show booth rental or trade mission participation fee;
  3. Trade show booth build-out expenses ($3,000 maximum);
  4. Shipping of products to the trade show and return;
  5. Gold Key Service (a program offered by U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service that matches pre-qualified foreign buyers with American companies in markets around the world. More information at: http://2016.export.gov/salesandmarketing/eg_main_018195.asp), or other federal export development programs;
  6. Localization services for collateral materials and website ($3,000 maximum);
  7. Fees for shipping sample products ($2,000 maximum);
  8. Cost of compliance testing an existing product for entry into an export market ($2,000 maximum);
  9. Export Research Tool Subscription used to assist company with market research ($1,000 maximum).

Have questions? Go to the HiSTEP-CA FAQs page.

To register for HiSTEP programs complete the online HiSTEP application.



dbedtDBEDT Business Development & Support Division
sbaSBA Hawaii District Office
Hawaii Pacific Export Council (HPEC)
sbdcSmall Business Development Center (SBDC)
doaHawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA)
ftzForeign Trade Zone No. 9
innovate_hawaiiHTDC/INNOVATE Hawaii
uscsU.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center