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Expanding Into American Markets from Canada

Expanding Into American Markets from Canada

Some Things to Consider Before Hitting the Open Road

As a maker or designer there will come a day when you have decided to try markets outside of the country, which, is why I have written a short guide from my experiences of doing this myself. 

1. Get a customs broker. There really is no way around this; not only will they help you with the paperwork for crossing with your products, but they manage your fees, help you source your NAFTA codes, and ensure you have the right permissions. 

If you are as new at this as I was you probably haven't heard of NAFTA before. Basically, it stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement. This is why it is that we can travel to the US as a Canadian business person. In order to cross your products you need the specific codes that let the customs agents know exactly what you are exporting, where it is from, and how to tax for it. This leads me to the next point.

2. Know where you have sourced your products from. When exporting you have to prove that your products are Made in Canada, otherwise exporting will be much more difficult. Defining your products as Made in Canada doesn't necessarily mean that every material used was produced in Canada, in fact you can have up to a certain percent of the added cost of the final product before it cannot be considered Canadian made. However just remember to track, record, and be conscious of the codes of the materials you have used. You can find these either from your supplier or if they are mailed to you, they will be on your customs paperwork that the company filled out to get them to you.

*Note - you cannot export products with the same code that they are imported by.

3. This is the tricky part (If you are going to a trade show or your products are pre-sold, you may ignore this section). Otherwise, if you are planning to sell your products in person at a market or otherwise this is important to know. Legally you cannot do this, because as a foreigner you cannot take work from eligible Americans, which means you will have to hire someone who is American to sell your products for you. This can be a bit of a challenge if you do not know anyone in the city you are traveling to. I don't have a whole tonne of advice in this area, just that you should reach out on social media first and if not there is always employment agencies that you could try.

4. When selling products in person it is important to be conscious of tax policies where you will be selling. Each state has their own way of dealing with taxes, but generally you will need some sort of temporary business license. This is one of the easier things to get and generally doesn't cost very much. In other words it's worth it to have!

5. Lastly, make sure all of your products say "Made in Canada" otherwise you might be stuck hand writing it on each piece of packaging before they allow you across ;)

If you have any other questions, I'm always willing to try my best to help out, just let me know! Hope you enjoyed the article!