Hawaii State Trade Expansion Program (HiSTEP)

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 built on a multifaceted approach to export development. The program begins with comprehensive export assistance, readiness, counseling and training that leads into a menu of targeted and individualized activities designed to generate new export sales for participating small businesses. The program is administered by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) which partners with several agencies and organizations to carry out HiSTEP. These partners include the Hawaii Pacific Export Council, U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Small Business Development Centers, Innovate Hawaii (High Technology Development Corporation), SBA Hawaii District Office, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, and the Foreign Trade Zone No. 9.

Watch the following videos to see why everyone is talking about HiSTEP:

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

HiSTEP – Export Readiness Program (HiSTEP-ERP)

Training programs to prepare Hawaii companies to begin or expand their export market development. See the press release here.

Export University is an introductory program covering key export topics that is open to all types of businesses considering exporting. Participants receive a minimum of 16 hours of instruction over the course of several days. At the conclusion of the program, companies will have a go-to-market strategy and export plan. The application deadline is July 1, 2016. Program fee payable by the first session is $25.

The Export University Application is available online. View the Export University Flyer for more information.

ExporTech is designed for companies that have some experience with exporting, but not as part of a proactive export market development plan. ExporTech is organized by the Federal Manufacturing Extension Partnership and focuses mostly, but not exclusively, on businesses involved in manufacturing. Participants meet for one day each month over a three month period with assignments in between the one day sessions. Registration has now closed and classes will begin shortly. Please follow us at http://invest.hawaii.gov for 2017’s program details and application.

*Note: This program is offered in other states usually at $2,500 – $3,000 of its $5,000 value. This year this program is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Export Readiness Training 2016

03/22/2016ExporTech Hawaii 2016Honolulu, HI
04/21/2016ExporTech Hawaii 2016Honolulu, HI
05/10/2016Export University 101Honolulu, HI
05/19/2016ExporTech Hawaii 2016Honolulu, HI
05/24/2016Export University 102Honolulu, HI
07/28/2016Export University 101Maui, HI
08/10/2016Export University 101Honolulu, HI
09/14/2016Export University 201Honolulu, HI
09/16/2016Export University 101Big Island, HI

HiSTEP – Assistance Program (HiSTEP-AP)

Assists individual Hawaii companies with export market development costs. See the press release for more information.

Application proposals may request a minimum of $2,000 and a maximum of $6,000. HiSTEP-AP applicants must provide a minimum of 25 percent cash matching funds. In-kind and personnel are not allowed as matching funds.

Award funds will be limited to the following uses:

  1. Trade Show/Trade Mission costs (eligible costs include space rental and other exhibit-related expenses; airfare; accommodations for period of show/mission only; shipping of products for show)
  2. Travel for multiple buyer meetings (minimum six meetings)
  3. 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), or other federal export development programs
  4. Localization services for collateral materials and website ($3,000 maximum)
  5. Fees for shipping sample products ($2,000 maximum)
  6. Cost of compliance testing an existing product for entry into an export market ($2,000 maximum)


The program RFP has already been posted and can be downloaded at: spo3.hawaii.gov/notices/notices/rfp-16-02-bdsd. Applications can be submitted beginning Jan. 4, 2016. This RFP is now closed. Please be sure to check invest.hawaii.gov for updates on the launch of HiSTEP in 2017.

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. Hawaii Pavilions are planned for the following Trade Shows for 2016:

To participate in one or more of these shows, please fill out the 2016 Hawaii Pavilions (HiSTEP-HP) Application.

For more information on these trade shows view the Export Challenge Calendar or contact Jamie Lum at jamie.k.lum@hawaii.gov.

Success metrics for HiSTEP include, but are not limited to 1) expanded exports and revenue from exports of Hawaii produced goods and services; 2) a larger overall number and a larger percentage of Hawaii-based companies that are active in global markets; and 3) penetration of new markets for Hawaii produced goods and services.

Eligibility for HiSTEP

Companies desiring to participate in any of the HiSTEP activities must meet at least the following requirements.

  1. Meet the federal requirements of an ‘eligible small business concern’ (meet size standards, one year in business, profitable, understand costs associated w/exporting, have export plan)
  2. Certify that the company is not barred from receiving federal funds
  3. Be registered in good standing with the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Business Registration Division at vendors.ehawaii.gov
  4. Have a current general excise tax license with the State Department of Taxation


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.

Hawaii previously received two STEP grant awards totaling over $1.1 million. Matched with state funds and in-kind support of over $500,000, these funds helped 202 companies and supported programs that generated export sales of over $26 million for these Hawaii companies in the fashion and apparel, gift and consumer products, agricultural and value-added products, and biotechnology industries. This level of export sales creates an economic impact of over $41 million; generates $1.7 million in state taxes; and creates 273 jobs in Hawaii.