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Paving the Way to International Markets: SJ Morse’s Successful Export Strategy


Nothing in business is guaranteed, especially when the risks associated with entering a new foreign market are involved. But West Virginia companies that take advantage of export programs and services are more likely to find success on the international market than those who try to do it alone. For example, SJ Morse utilized the West Virginia Department of Economic Development’s resources to participate in a trade show and used STEP grant funding to expand into the Canadian market.

By utilizing the resources available to them, taking calculated risks, and committing to export success, small business owners can open new doors and create long-term, sustainable results for their business. Here’s a little bit about how SJ Morse did just that.

Getting started by getting your brand out there

SJ Morse, which is based out of Capon Bridge, is an employee-owned business that produces custom, high-end veneer panels for residential, industrial and commercial applications. Recognizing that growth opportunities for the company included international markets, the company leadership made strategic decisions to capitalize on the resources available to them through the WV Department of Economic Development to pursue exports.

The company got started by participating in a state of West Virginia pavilion at an American Institute of Architects conference in 2018 and using the state’s resources at a domestic trade show with an audience of architects and construction managers, including those from foreign markets. To take advantage of those foreign visitors, the state worked to identify key attendees and assisted participant companies with making connections. Through their participation and matchmaking at the pavilion, SJ Morse received significant exposure at an influential industry trade show. Looking to the future, the company leadership plans to participate in trade shows to continue to enhance the awareness of their brand.   

Taking the next step by targeting a specific market

Following their AIA participation, the company chose to target a specific foreign market for international expansion and decided on Canada. Using the STEP Grant through the WV Department of Economic Development, the company developed a website tailored to the Canadian market and used search engine optimization to drive traffic. The company recently reported an export success in the form of a sale to Canada.  

This recent sale was recognized at the Governor’s Commendation for International Market Entry Awards in July. The company, along with 36 other small businesses, saw their international achievements celebrated by Gov. Jim Justice, Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Carol Miller. An award plaque was given to SJ Morse with a framed Canadian Dollar, which is proudly displayed at the company for employees and visitors.

Getting an export strategy up and running

SJ Morse’s success in Canada is not unique. The company leadership credits their quality workforce as a key contributor to their product quality and reputation. Combined with the commitment to international sales and utilization of the services available to them through the WV Department of Economic Development, the company achieved export success while reducing risk and offsetting the costs associated with exporting. SJ Morse plans to continue their expansion into new markets by taking advantage of the customized market research available through the U.S. Commercial Service and developing an export strategy for the short term.

Are you interested in following in the path of SJ Morse and growing your exports? Utilize the support available to you and launch your business on the global stage. Reach out to one of our international trade managers today to learn more about the programs and services available to your company.

Caitlin Ashley-Lizarraga

By Caitlin Ashley-Lizarraga

Manager, International Trade

Caitlin works with the West Virginia Department of Economic Development’s Export Promotion Program. She helps introduce the world to the hidden gem of West Virginia one export at a time.

To connect with a West Virginia Department of Economic Development representative, call +1-304-558-2234.

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