The California STEP program is designed to offer financial assistance to eligible California small businesses pursuing export sales in foreign markets. Eligible companies can participate in our pre-selected/STEP supported international trade shows, trade missions, or they can apply for a STEP Export Voucher (previously known as the Individual Company Export Promotion program or ICEP). The California State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
To be eligible for STEP funding, California small businesses must meet the following criteria:
- For-profit Business
- Organized or incorporated in the U.S.
- Majority operations in California
- Exporting goods or services of U.S. origin or that have at least 51% U.S. content.
- Meet SBA small business size standards (which vary by NAICS code based on either annual receipts or number of employees)
- Registered and in good standing in the State of California
- Corporation or LC/LLC must have an Active status with the California Secretary of State
- Sole Proprietors must have an active business license with their respective city or county
- In business for at least one year at the time that the funded activity takes place.
- Have sufficient resources to bear the costs associated with trade, including the costs of packing, shipping, freight forwarding, and customs brokers.
- See the Program Guidelines for additional details.
Export Voucher Application Period
|Round||Application Period||For Activities Implemented|
|1||CLOSED||Oct. 1, 2022 – Dec. 31, 2022|
|2||Nov. 21, 2022 – Feb. 2, 2023*||Jan. 1, 2023 – Mar. 31, 2023|
|3||TBD||Apr. 1, 2023 – June 30, 2023|
|4||TBD||July 1, 2023 – Sept. 30, 2023|
*Please note: Applications must be received before the activity is implemented. The approximate notification status timeline is 14 business days.
Eligible California businesses can receive up to $10,000 to offset 75% of approved expenses via the Export Voucher Program and participate in up to two (2) STEP Events during the federal fiscal year period of October 1, 2022, to September 30, 2023. Please note, that we anticipate a high volume of applications during Round 1 and Round 2. Depending on if funding is available or the volume of applications received, application periods may be extended.
Review program eligibility, allowable expenses, and selection criteria in PDF form
Overview of the STEP Event Application Process
Overview of the Export Voucher Reimbursement Process
Business creates a profile and submits the STEP Export Voucher Application through the grant portal site.
Applications are reviewed and assessed according to eligibility criteria and the merits of the proposal.
International Trade Shows & Trade Missions
- Exhibitions/participation fee(s)
- Booth space costs
- Booth funishings
- Catalog listing fees
- Translation fees
U.S. Commercial Service Products
- Gold Key Service (GKS)
- Initial Market Check (IMC)
- International Partner Search (IPS)
- And more
Website Globalization & E-Commerce
- Website translations
- International Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Localization services
- E-Commerce platform, hosting, and maintenance fees targeting international buyers
International Marketing Materials
- Social media marketing campaigns directed at foreign markets
- Design & graphics costs for foreign markets (excludes printing costs)
- Product labeling costs
- Translation of documents
- Shipping product samples and materials to eligible promotional activities: trade shows, trade missions, and business meetings (virtual or in-person)
- Export-import credit insurance fees
- Intellectual property protections
- Compliance testing
- Export research tools