Massachusetts Export Center

Massachusetts STEP Program Readiness Assessment & Application

MOITI  MSBDC NetworkMassachusetts Export CenterSBA


PLEASE NOTE: Federal funding for the 2019-2020 Massachusetts STEP program has not yet been appropriated. Please submit an application with the full understanding that there is a risk that the program will not be funded.


apply STEPThe Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment ("MOITI"), in collaboration with the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network ("MSBDC") and the Massachusetts Export Center, is pleased to announce the Massachusetts State Trade Expansion Program ("STEP"). MOITI, through a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration ("SBA"), will provide grants to eligible Massachusetts small businesses for the purpose of increasing export sales of their goods and services.

Grants under the STEP program will be capped at $12,000 per business to reimburse for costs associated with pre-approved projects, activities or services undertaken during the period October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020. Each grant recipient will be required to provide a match to cover at least a portion of the total approved cost for any project, activity or service (the "Match"). New-to-export firms have a 25% match requirement and all other firms have a 40% match requirement.

The STEP Program is intended to help offset international business development and related marketing costs for small businesses. Grant proceeds may be used for specific international business development and marketing costs, including:

  • Overseas trade show or conference exhibition and directly related expenses (e.g., booth space, shipping charges, carnets, attendance in conjunction with exhibiting, space to deliver technical sales seminars, etc.) (shipping costs capped at $2,000 per company);

  • U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Key and other in-country services;

  • Government-organized foreign trade missions with a business matchmaking element;

  • Cost of compliance testing an existing product for entry into an export market ($3,000 cap per company);

  • Design of export market-specific marketing media (including design and translation of brochures, targeted advertising in industry-appropriate media, etc. — does not include printing) ($3,000 cap per company);

  • Localization of websites for target export markets (including translation of websites, technical localization, and search engine optimization for export markets) ($3,000 cap per company).

Grant proceeds will not cover certain activities, including but not limited to: routine business operation and infrastructure-related expenses, domestic trade shows and conferences, travel expenses, staffing related costs, and more. Applications for vague or ineligible activities will be automatically disqualified. Click here for details on eligible and ineligible activities.

Small businesses engaged in STEP-supported export activities must be an export-ready U.S. company seeking to export goods or services of U.S. origin or have at least 51% U.S. content. STEP applicants should reference existing U.S. government regulatory guidance for determination of U.S. content (click here for STEP U.S. Content Definition/Formula).

Following completion and submission of the Readiness Assessment & Application ("Application"), the Massachusetts Export Center shall review all applications. MOITI will notify eligible applicants in writing of entry into the STEP Consultation Period. During the STEP Consultation Period, the Massachusetts Export Center will consult with the applicant and review the applicant's international business marketing plan and the applicant's specific request for reimbursement. In scoring applications and awarding grants, the Massachusetts Export Center will consider the following: the applicant's financial strength and ability to sustain export sales beyond the grant period; the applicant's demonstrated commitment to increasing export sales; likelihood that the STEP-funded activity will lead to new or increased export sales; likelihood that the STEP-funded activity will lead to job creation and economic impact; and that STEP-funded activity meet the needs of the applicant and will provide for long-term growth.

Click here to download a sample copy of the STEP application questions. Please save your answers as a separate Word document before entering the data into the online application. There is no functionality to save partial applications. All grant applications must be submitted online by clicking on the "Apply Now" button on this page.

Application Period:  Applications will be accepted for consideration during the following application period: August 5 - September 30, 2019. All applications must be received by the deadline of Monday, September 30, 2019 at 5:00 p.m.

Eligibility:  To qualify for STEP program funding, a business must meet the definition of an "eligible small business concern" under Section 503 of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (click here to view the official definition). In addition, the business must meet the U.S. content requirements. Verification is the burden of the applicant.

Required for application:  Companies wishing to apply for STEP funding must submit an online application. The proposed project, service or activity for which funding is requested must occur between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020.

Required for disbursement of grant proceeds:  In order to receive reimbursement, a company must present proof of payment for the related project, activity or service, including but not limited to, a copy of paid invoice(s), cancelled checks, paid credit card statements and other related documentation as required. Companies must also be able to document payment against their match requirement. Full details on reimbursement requirements will be included as part of the contract package sent to grant awardees.

Please note: There is no advantage for early applicants. We encourage you to view the Massachusetts Export Center's STEP Program Application Webinar and compile a thorough, thoughtful and strategic application for the greatest chance of approval. See details on the webinar below.

We suggest that you complete the application on a computer rather than a mobile device.

For questions on the STEP application process, please contact the Massachusetts Export Center at 617-973-6610. Thank you!

The Massachusetts Export Center offers a free 1.5 hour webinar about the STEP program. The webinar discusses the parameters of the Massachusetts STEP program and walks participants through the STEP application process. Click here to learn more and register for webinar.


You must complete your application electronically and submit online with the "apply now" link below.
The application deadline is Monday, September 30, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. EST.

apply STEP

Funded in part through a grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration