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Financing your international ambitions

This information is provided by:Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVKNetherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVKNederlandse versie

Are you interested in selling your product or service abroad? Do you want to get started but do not have much experience? Or are you an experienced exporter and you want to expand your market share abroad? Whatever your situation, find out how to finance your international ambitions.

How should you prepare for international business?

Growing your business by international expansion has lots of advantages. But there are also many obstacles to avoid. They can end up costing you a lot of money if you make the wrong choices or do not prepare correctly. Finding the right way to fund your ambitions is essential for any successful exporter.

Are you a new exporter?

Your business is still relatively young. You do not have a lot of internal cash flow or collateral, so you have to rely on external financing. You are looking at your options and exploring whether exporting goods or services is right for you. You are about to commit to becoming an exporter, but you do not have a specific country in mind yet. You need funding to explore the various target markets abroad and to adapt the product and packaging to local needs and legal requirements.

You have already applied for financing from your bank by presenting a full export plan. So far, they have rejected your requests. This is because citing a lack of financial resources, collateral, and guarantees, as well as an unproven track record. You are looking for an (optimal) financing mix.

As a new exporter, you should ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to do business abroad? Why do I want to start exporting goods or services?
  • What is my USP just now? Will that still be the case in the international market I am considering?
  • Where can I find opportunities? Which countries are most promising in general? And how interesting are these countries for my business?
  • Is my organisation capable of exporting goods?
  • Should I draw up a plan outlining the financial consequences of exporting my goods or services? What should I invest in?
  • And where can I find the necessary finance? What are my options?

Are you an exporter looking for new markets?

Your business has been around for 5 to 10 years. You have a handful of employees. Your business has been exporting goods or services for several years. You want to keep developing and growing and plan to find new markets abroad. You need funding to explore these new foreign markets and to adapt the product and packaging to local needs and legal requirements.

You have internal cash flows and collateral but still rely on external sources for financing. You already have a relationship with a bank. But your bank is reluctant to finance your new export plans because you cannot provide the collateral and guarantees they are looking for. And you do not yet have a track record in the foreign market. You are looking for an optimal financing mix.

As an exporter looking to enter a new market, you should ask yourself:

  • Do I need to adapt my product to the needs and requirements of the future foreign market?
  • Should I develop a special service tailored to my prospective foreign market?
  • Will my current business plan or export plan do, or should I adapt it to my new plans?
  • What should I invest in?
  • And where can I find the necessary finance? What are my options?
  • Should I go looking for partners? And if so, who?
  • Is my organisation ready for these new foreign markets?

Are you an experienced exporter working in an established foreign market?

Your business has been around for more than 10 years. You have multiple employees. You have been exporting goods for years. Exporting goods was a natural and deliberate choice. You are very familiar with the foreign markets to which you export goods. You have even identified opportunities to boost sales and grow by redesigning your export activities. This would, however, require large investments.

You have ample internal cash flows and collateral but still rely on external sources for financing. You have a good relationship with a bank and they are willing to finance part of your export ambitions. You are looking for an (optimal) financing mix.

As an experienced exporter working in familiar foreign markets, you should yourself:

  • How should I organise my activities abroad to boost my reach while using fewer resources?
  • How can I set up an independent foreign sales office?
  • How can I work more effectively with my foreign trading partners? Do I need new partners?
  • How can I finance my efforts to set up or overhaul my activities abroad?
  • What should I invest in?
  • And where can I find the necessary finance? What are my options?

Finding the right finance mix

New and experienced exporters alike should always describe their plans in a detailed export plan and financial plan. You can use these plans in negotiations with money lenders and financiers, such as banks, investors, revolving funds (for revolving credit), and government agencies such as the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). Make sure that you know your financial data and prepare a good pitch.

Are you about to go abroad for the first time and need extra support? Apply for a Support International Business subsidy.

Before approaching external financiers, it is worth exploring ways to free up funds via bootstrapping. This is a good way to save money, because finance is never free.

For most businesses, banks are the primary source of finance. But what if your bank is reluctant to finance your plans? This will often be the case if your business does not have access to strong internal cash flows, guarantees, or collateral, and does not have a proven track record yet. Most starting businesses will not yet have a relationship with their bank regarding exporting. Instead, you can look at other sources of financing, such as government schemes and grants, and external financing, before talking to your bank. Other international business subsidies may also be a good place to start.

By combining all these options, you will end up with a financing mix that you can use to fund your export ambitions.

Where can you get help?

Financing your export ambitions can be very complicated. But the benefits usually outweigh the negatives. For questions, contact an adviser of the KVK Financing Desk. They will help you take stock of your situation, advise you on what to do next, and refer you to other organisations that can help you flesh out your export plans.


  • Put together an optimal financing mix.
  • When applying for complex international grants and schemes, bring in a subsidy adviser.
  • Consult the RVO subsidy guide (in Dutch) for a list of grants and funding opportunities.

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