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WV RAISE provides customized market research to improve exporting success


Exporting is one of the best ways for a growing company to find new customers, but entering a new market can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. That’s why we recommend investing in market research to identify the best countries for your products and services. But not all market research tools are worth your time and money.

Thanks to the WV RAISE Initiative, exporters in West Virginia can get quality, customized market research reports for a discounted price. The best thing about participating in the program is that it frees you up to focus your attention on running your company. But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what two participating companies have to say about the benefits of the WV RAISE Initiative.

What West Virginia exporters are saying about WV RAISE

The WV RAISE initiative was launched in 2020 by the West Virginia Export Promotion Program and works with the U.S. Commercial Service in West Virginia and the Rural Export Center in North Dakota to provide quality customized market research reports for exporters in West Virginia. To date, seven West Virginia exporters have participated. One of the first companies to participate in the WV RAISE Initiative was Lakota Software Solutions, Inc., a biometrics software company in Fairmont.

“From our experience, participating in WV RAISE has been very simple and hasn’t required a large time commitment on our part,” said Sam Cilento, who oversees business development and sales for Lakota. “The RAISE team has handled the bulk of the workload. We probably only spent three to four hours in total for face-to-face meetings.”

After an initial meeting, RAISE researchers use criteria identified by the participating company to create a report that ranks countries based on market opportunity. Cilento says the report’s rankings have been helpful in prioritizing markets where opportunity exists.

“From this program, we were able to identify the markets we need to focus on now, which gave us the direction we were lacking,” Cilento said. “The final report also helped validate some of the opportunities we were already following.”

One benefit of the customized market research reports provided by the WV RAISE Initiative is finding opportunities in countries that would not have necessarily been considered before. Just ask company leaders at Greasezilla.

“Although all of Europe showed up strong on our report, we were surprised to see Poland and Vietnam come in our top 10 opportunities,” said Bill Hambley, director of business development for Greasezilla, a manufacturer of a system that separates and processes grease waste and early participant of the WV RAISE Initiative.

If not for the market research report provided by the WV RAISE Initiative, Greasezilla may have never made that connection.

“Both of these countries have recently embraced free enterprise and we are excited to see what we can do there,” Hambley said.

In-depth reports lead to market knowledge, competitive advantages

Through the WV RAISE Initiative, participating companies can also receive an in-depth report on one country. The in-depth report provides a deeper look at why the data points so strongly to a specific market. While numbers don’t lie, the U.S. Commercial Service recommends consulting experts on the ground.

Participating companies are encouraged to have virtual consultations with the U.S. Commercial Service in their countries of choice to find out more about their potential in the market. With this information, participants can confidently go into a call with overseas trade specialists to ask the right questions and learn more about potential sales opportunities.

Greasezilla leaders found this out early one. While data favored Singapore, investigative work by the U.S. Commercial Service in Singapore found that interest in Greasezilla’s product was not there at this time. For the company, that was good news.

“Singapore is very serious about collection of grease waste, but after contacting the U.S. Commercial service there to do additional research we learned there really is no incentive for them to do anything different than they are now and ultimately no need for Greasezilla in their process,” said Hambley. “So, RAISE proved valuable by pointing us in a direction of further fact finding that ultimately told us not to waste resources there.”

With this level of data and on-the-ground feedback, companies like Greasezilla can save money and time by focusing on markets that truly need and want their product. 

Whether data from WV RAISE reports produces a successful export sale or simply a wealth of information, participants in the initiative say they would do it again.

“Continuous participation would be valuable in validating the next areas to focus on as well as identifying the relevant opportunities and connections,” said Cilento. “We would definitely recommend this program to other companies, especially those who are relatively new to the export process.”

How to participate in the WV RAISE Initiative

For companies that weren’t able to participate in the WV RAISE Initiative pilot program, we have some good news. The initiative is now a permanent part of the WV Export Promotion Program. To learn more about participating, contact a West Virginia Department of Economic Development international trade manager or one of the U.S. Commercial Service offices in Charleston or Wheeling. To learn more about the initiative, visit westvirginia.gov/export-assistance.

Caitlin Ashley-Lizarrage headshot

By Caitlin Ashley-Lizarraga

International Trade Representative

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.

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