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EXIM’s Export Credit Insurance Enabled Pennsylvania Small Business to Expand Existing Sales and Enter New Markets

PRESS RELEASE

Media Contact: Office of Communications (202-565-3203)
For Immediate Release: September 11, 2020

WASHINGTON — AcousticSheep LLC, a minority- and woman-owned small business in Erie, Pennsylvania, that manufactures headphones designed for sleeping and running, has been named an Exporter of the Year by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM). The company, which has used EXIM’s export credit insurance to support its international sales since 2017, will be honored during EXIM’s 2020 Annual Conference, the largest conference in the agency’s history, which is being held virtually September 9-11.

In 2007, Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, a family physician, and her husband, Jason Wolfe, a video game developer, founded AcousticSheep, growing the small business from a kitchen-table operation into an award-winning company with 25 employees. When Dr. Lai had trouble falling asleep at night, she invented the product she needed and launched a successful business that has increased sales every year. The Consumer Technology Association has honored AcousticSheep as the Small Business of the Year, and the Small Business Administration has named Dr. Lai as Pennsylvania Small Business Person of the Year.

“I am honored to recognize AcousticSheep on behalf of EXIM for its outstanding contributions to fulfilling our agency’s mission of supporting American jobs by facilitating U.S. exports,” said EXIM President and Chairman Kimberly A. Reed. “The winners of EXIM’s Exporter of the Year award come from every region of our country and many different industries, but all represent American ingenuity and success. Approximately 90 percent of EXIM’s authorizations directly support small businesses like the exporters being awarded today, and at EXIM we are proud to help in the success of these small businesses as they compete in the global marketplace and support American jobs.”

As AcousticSheep grew, the company began selling its products internationally, but experienced difficulty when customers defaulted on payments. In 2017, AcousticSheep began using EXIM’s export credit insurance for protection against the risk of nonpayment. EXIM’s insurance enabled the company to continue increasing exports in its original markets and expand into two new countries. Exporting accounts for about 25 percent of sales and sustains local jobs. Since 2014, EXIM has supported exports valued at nearly $150,000 to New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. The company’s policies are facilitated by EXIM broker Meridian Finance Group, a Texel Company, headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices nationwide.

“EXIM has given us the confidence to work with new distributors in more risky countries as well as expand our sales to existing distributors, giving them more credit — and increased sales — over time,” said Dr. Lai, AcousticSheep’s CEO. “We used to worry about doing enough due diligence on international partners or asking them to pay up front. Now, we are still careful, but we know that EXIM has our back if anything goes wrong.”

Since 2014, EXIM has supported exports valued at $4 billion from 207 companies — including 141 small businesses like AcousticSheep — across Pennsylvania.

U.S. companies, particularly small businesses, can utilize EXIM’s financing tools and resources to increase their international sales, showcase their “Made in the USA” products, and sustain American jobs. By partnering with EXIM, exporters can mitigate the risk of nonpayment on international sales, offer credit terms to foreign buyers, and access working capital loan guarantees. In addition, EXIM has implemented several COVID-19 (coronavirus) relief measures for U.S. exporters and financial institutions to enhance the agency’s existing programs.

ABOUT EXIM:

EXIM is an independent federal agency that promotes and supports American jobs by providing competitive and necessary export credit to support sales of U.S. goods and services to international buyers. A robust EXIM can level the global playing field for U.S. exporters when they compete against foreign companies that receive support from their governments. EXIM also contributes to U.S. economic growth by helping to create and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs in exporting businesses and their supply chains across the United States. In recent years, approximately 90 percent of the total number of the agency’s authorizations has directly supported small businesses. Since 1992, EXIM has generated more than $9 billion for the U.S. Treasury for repayment of U.S. debt. 

For more information about EXIM, please visit www.exim.gov.