Massachusetts Export Center

Massachusetts STEP Program Readiness Assessment & Application

MOITI  MSBDC NetworkMassachusetts Export CenterSBA


PLEASE NOTE: Federal funding for the 2023-2024 Massachusetts STEP program has not yet been appropriated. Applicants must acknowledge that there is a risk that the program will not be funded.

**NEW** The Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment and the Massachusetts Export Center are no longer able to consider STEP applications for companies that have received three or more STEP grants in the past.

Apply STEP
The 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, approved Massachusetts small businesses for the purpose of increasing export sales of their goods and services.

Eligible businesses may apply for grants ranging from a minimum of $6,000 to a maximum of $15,000 per business to reimburse for costs associated with pre-approved projects, activities or services undertaken during the period October 1, 2023 to March 31, 2025. 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 minimum of 10% match requirement and all other firms have a minimum of 20% 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.)

  • U.S. Department of Commerce international business development services (e.g., Gold Key Service, International Partner Search with Virtual Introductions, Single Company Promotion, International Company Profile, trade missions and other export matchmaking services, etc.)

  • Cost of compliance testing an existing product for entry into an export market

  • Design of export market-specific marketing media (including design and translation of brochures, targeted advertising in industry-appropriate media, etc. – does NOT include printing)

  • Localization of websites for target export markets (including translation of websites, technical localization, and search engine optimization for export markets)

  • Research tool subscription for targeted export market research

  • International intellectual property protection filing fees with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

  • Export credit insurance policy fees through the Export-Import Bank of the United States

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 of the STEP application for use in preparing your application (PDF). 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. We suggest that you complete the application on a computer rather than a mobile device.

First Step:  Prior to completing your STEP application or requesting a spot on the STEP waiting list, please complete or update your Request for Counseling record with the Massachusetts Export Center/Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network. We cannot consider STEP applications submitted by companies without a Request for Counseling already on file.

Application Deadline:  All applications must be received by the deadline of Saturday, September 30, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. EDT. There is no advantage for early applications.

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. Click here to view 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, 2023 and March 31, 2025.

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 register for 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.

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

The Massachusetts Export Center will present a 1.5 hour webinar about the STEP program on Wednesday, September 20, 2023 at 12pm EDT. The webinar will discuss the parameters of the Massachusetts STEP program and walks participants through the STEP application process. Please note that there are important changes to the scope of the program this year. Click here for details on the webinar.


You must complete your application electronically and submit online with the "apply now" link.
The application deadline is Saturday, September 30, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

Apply STEP

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