Small businesses employ more than 6 million people in the U.S. and contribute nearly $550 billion to the country’s economy each year. However, that number could more than double if those businesses tapped into the potential that foreign markets could provide, according to a report from TecNation, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In California specifically, small business exports account for $78.3 billion in GDP and 748,525 jobs. Those numbers could increase by $11.7 billion and nearly 100,000 jobs if small businesses better utilized digital tools like ecommerce and online marketing. 

The report, which is based on more than 3800 interviews with small business owners, found that 92% of small businesses that export utilize ecommerce and online productivity tools, while only 17% of non-exporting businesses do the same. Another 73% reported that they’re not familiar with the tools that could help them enter foreign markets.

small business exports infographic

To bridge those divides TecNation makes several recommendations that align with the priorities of the California International Trade Center, including developing collaborative relationships between government, business, and education, and creating mechanisms for small businesses to access digital tools and technologies.

Community colleges throughout California are stepping up to meet these challenges by creating opportunities for students to complete virtual internships with small businesses and bringing business owners’ voices to the table when creating courses and programs.

“The California International Trade Center links workforce development to economic growth by linking our community college students to small business doing global ecommerce through the Virtual Internship Program (VIP). The VIP gives students real-world experience, under the direction of ecommerce/SEO experts, in the service of small businesses using ecommerce as a mechanism to grow sales overseas. This unique opportunity prepares our workforce for high-paying, middle skills jobs and California companies to take advantage of the global marketplace” said said Leah Goold-Haws, California Community Colleges Statewide Director for Global Trade.

For more information about the TecNation report, visit