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Vellus Products, Inc.’s President Sharon Doherty.

Vellus Products, Inc.’s President Sharon Doherty

Vellus Products, Inc.

The Company

Is your pet or show dog having a bad hair day? Well, Sharon Doherty, president of Vellus Products Inc., can help. Her small Columbus, Ohio–based company makes a line of pet grooming products, including customized shampoos, conditioners, brushing sprays, satin cream, and a detangler.

The Challenge

Vellus Products’ first export sale occurred in 1993, when a Taiwanese businessperson, after trying the Vellus line, bought $25,000 worth of the company’s products to sell in Taiwan through dog shows. The word was out. “I started receiving calls from people around the world who would hear of our products at dog shows and ask organizers how they could get in touch with me to buy our products,” Doherty recalls. “But I needed a way to find market research and learn more about ways of doing business in these countries.”

The Solution

Doherty soon tapped the services of the U.S. Commercial Service in Columbus. “As business has grown, I have gone from ordering country profiles to requesting customized export and financing strategies tailored to maximize export potential,” Doherty says.

The Commercial Service relied on its worldwide network and partners like the Small Business Administration and the state of Ohio to provide customized market research and information on financing and other programs for Vellus. By 2004, Vellus was selling to 28 countries. “I credit the Commercial Service for helping me expand my exports, as it would have been much more difficult to do this on my own,” Doherty says.

Exports Helps Vellus Weather Global Economic Situation

In December 2008, Vellus made first time sales to Poland and Russia, and opened up new markets in Denmark, Hungary and Switzerland in early 2009—raising the number of countries where she does business to 34.

“We’ve shown greater flexibility in our sales strategy, and this has really paid off for us,” Doherty says. “Now, more than ever, you need to be flexible and diligent in nurturing your customer base—and that includes being patient and committed to exporting for the long-haul.”

“Almost half our annual sales are international, and by diversifying our market portfolio we’ve been able to grow revenue and weather changes in the economy,” said Doherty. “Opportunities for growth are tremendous and the risks are very manageable thanks to advances in logistics, banking and market intelligence for the small company.”


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