WILKES-BARRE – Bob Scocozzo is so pleased with the help he's gotten from Pennsylvania's international trade advisers he's going to treat them to dinner. The CEO of Mia Bella candle maker Scent-Sations also hopes to impress the men and women who pitch Pennsylvania products in 37 nations across the globe.
After giving them a tour of the Mia Bella plant on George Avenue in the city's Parsons section Thursday night, Scocozzo plans to attend Friday's "Bringing the World to Northeastern Pennsylvania" event to get help expanding the company's export business.
He's already seen the benefits, and wonders why more local businesses haven't taken advantage of the free services available through the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance.
"The NEPA Alliance has been so helpful; I can't believe they don't have 300 businesses knocking at their door," he said. "It doesn't cost me anything to meet with these people."
Perhaps word is getting out; this year's event has attracted commitments from more businesses than last year's 31, and late-comers are welcome.
"We will help any company who calls and tells us they want to meet with the trade advisers," said Mike Horvath, international business development manager at NEPA Alliance.
After a foray into Australia ended when Scent-Sations' partner there ran out of money, Scocozzo wasn't sure the export market was for him. But after another false start, Canadian sales are running $1.5 million to $2 million, he said.
"We're doing tremendous amounts of business in Canada," he said, even though so far it's only in the western provinces.
Faced with a sluggish domestic economy, the maker of Mia Bella products is developing markets outside U.S. borders, where the company's premium line of candles, makeup and bath and body products is unique. South Korea is one of the new markets, and Scocozzo credits the trade adviser for that country with linking him up with a distributor who is introducing Mia Bella into department stores there.
"Right now we have about $65,000 worth of candles over there" for a first order, he said.
The advisor's help can be as simple as joining a conference call to act as interpreter in negotiations. He also conveys requests from potential buyers, such as one to place a label where it's easily seen. "They want everything that says ‘Made in the U.S.A.,' " Scocozzo said.
Getting started in South Korea was easy, he said, because the United States has a trade agreement there, which also minimizes duties. Other countries present more obstacles; a test shipment to Brazil that included makeup was held in customs for two months as authorities determined whether the ingredients could be imported. They could, and now the partner there, an Israeli citizen, may take the line to Israel.
"I want the business because my (U.S.) business slowed down" and he had to lay off some staff, Scocozzo said. "I don't care if I make 25 cents a candle as long as it keeps people working."
What: Visit by 21 international trade advisors
When: Friday, Sept. 21, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Woodlands Inn & Resort, Highway 315, Plains Township
Cost: Free, but registration is required. Call 570-655-5581.
Ron Bartizek, Times Leader business editor, may be reached at [email protected] or 570-970-7157.