Hawaii State Trade Expansion Program (HiSTEP)

HiSTEP Overview

HiSTEP LogoThe 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 Grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Hawaii’s State Trade Expansion Program, known as HiSTEP, is a comprehensive 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.

September 25, 2018 Press Release: SBA Announces $450,000 Award to DBEDT for HiSTEP for 2019


Infographic for HiSTEP Success Metrics

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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 Registration
  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 and business advising program 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. HiSTEP-ERP also includes one-on-one business and export advising in cooperation with DBEDT’s partner organizations. At the conclusion of the program, companies will have a go-to-market strategy and export plan.

The sessions are expected to cover subjects ranging from scaling up operations, to logistics, to managing cultural differences.

Learn Exporting Basics in 2017 HiSTEP Training Seminars

Please be sure to review the several training seminars offered in 2017, which provide the basic foundation for your exporting plan. The videos and presentations for each session can be viewed on the 2017 HiSTEP Training Seminars page.

2018 HiSTEP Training Seminars

Session NameDate and TimeDescription/VenueRegistration Link
Oahu: HiSTEP Kick-off SeminarWednesday
Please join us to learn more about the 2018 HiSTEP program and how to register.

Presentation and Video
View the Oahu HiSTEP Kick-Off Seminar Video
Registration closed.
Export University 101Thursday
A comprehensive training seminar that will help you learn the nuts and bolts of exporting while developing a global strategy for your business. View the Export University 101 event flyer.

Presentation and Video
View the Export University 101 Video
Registration closed.
Marketing in JapanThursday
Learn specific marketing strategies for promoting your brand and driving sales in Hawaii’s #1 export market – Japan! The program will include how to leverage social media. View the Marketing in Japan event flyer.

Presentation and Video
View the Marketing in Japan Presentation and Video
Registration closed.
Leverage inexpensive technology to improve your online sales, marketing, shipping, and payments from overseas buyers. View the E-Commerce event flyer.

Presentation and Video
View the eCommerce Video
Registration closed.
Scaling Up OperationsThursday
As Hawaii companies expand into global markets, attention needs to be paid to meeting increased orders (manufacturing) and establishing procedures to service customers overseas. Learn what to do when your business receives a large order and needs to ramp up your production capabilities. View the Scaling Up Operations event flyer.

Presentation and Video
View the Scaling up Operations Presentation and Video
Registration closed.
Intellectual Property and TrademarksTuesday
In this seminar, learn all about protecting your business’s intellectual property, and how to leverage international agreements to protect your IP around the world. View the Intellectual Property event flyer.

Presentation and Video
View the Intellectual Property and Trademarks Presentation and Video
Registration closed.
International Trade ShowsThursday
Trade shows can be an excellent venue to find new buyers, promote your products, and increase awareness of your brand. Learn the do's and don'ts of international trade shows, including preparing for, attending, and turning prospects into buyers after the show. View the International Trade Shows event flyer.

View the International Trade Shows Video
Registration closed.
Exporting of ServicesThursday
Service providers, such as architects, consultants, and engineering firms, have different needs when it comes to exporting their services. In this seminar, we cover the basics of selling your services in foreign countries. View the Exporting of Services event flyer.
Registration closed.


2. HiSTEP – Hawaii Pavilions (HiSTEP-HP)

DBEDT and partners such as the Hawaii Department of Agriculture organize groups of Hawaii companies to participate in major trade shows in a Hawaii pavilion. For Hawaii companies seeking to participate in food-focused trade shows, such as FoodEx Japan, please contact Yukashi Smith at the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture, Yukashi.M.Smith@hawaii.gov. Also, please visit the HDOA website to find a list of food-focused trade shows.

To date, Hawaii Pavilions organized by DBEDT are planned for the following Trade Shows for 2018 (see official press release):

  • Surf Expo, Orlando, FL, January 25-27, 2018
  • Bio International Convention, Boston, MA, June 4-7, 2018
  • Hankyu Hawaii Fair, Osaka, Japan, July 4 – 10, 2018
  • Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Denver, CO, July 23 – 26, 2018
  • Tokyo International Gift Show, Tokyo, Japan, September 4-7, 2018

Space is limited and will be on a first come first serve basis. To sign up complete the 2018 HiSTEP Application. Note: this selection is for information purposes only. This does not obligate you to a booth, nor does it guarantee space at a Hawaii Pavilion. A program manager will be in contact with the details. DBEDT/BDSD reserves the right to final decision.


3. HiSTEP – Company Assistance (HiSTEP-CA)

HiSTEP-CA awards for 2018 have already been made. Provided we have funding, the next opportunity to apply would be late this year, or early next year. The link to the application (RFP) will be posted on the HiSTEP website, probably in October or November.

HiSTEP-CA assists individual Hawaii companies with export market development costs. Application proposals may request a minimum of $3,000 and a maximum of $7,500.  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).


To be eligible for HiSTEP-CA the Hawaii company must meet the  SBA’s definition of an “eligible small business concern” including:

  • Company has been in business for not less than one (1) year.
  • Company has access to sufficient resources to bear the costs associated with trade, including the costs of packing, shipping, freight forwarding, and custom brokers.  At a minimum, the company should have annual revenue of more than $200,000 in the previous year.
  • Company certifies that it is not barred from receiving federal funds.


Additional eligibility requirements:

  • Company has a business and export plan.
  • Company is listed as compliant in Hawaii Compliance Express (HCE).
  • For producers/manufacturers, priority will be given to companies whose Hawaii-made product meets the “Made in Hawaii” designation as defined under Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 468-119, stipulating that the product will have at least 51% of the wholesale value added by manufacture, assembly, fabrication, or production within the State.  For service providers, the eligibility requirement is that the company be registered to do business in the State of Hawaii and the service, although for a foreign market, is substantially performed in Hawaii.



dbedtDBEDT Business Development & Support Division
SBA LogoSBA Hawaii District Office
Hawaii Pacific Export Council (HPEC)
sbdcSmall Business Development Center (SBDC)
Logo for Patsy Mink Center for Business and LeadershipPatsy Mink Center for Business and Leadership
doaHawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA)
ftzForeign Trade Zone No. 9
innovate_hawaiiHTDC/INNOVATE Hawaii
uscsU.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center