Meet the World Trade Center Utah Team: Nicole Sherwood, Director of Grants and Operations/ STEP Project Director
While you’d usually see our team out-and-about during our educational seminars and diplomatic events, we’ve decided to bring them directly to your inbox while we continue to practice social distancing. This month, we are highlighting Nicole Sherwood, Director of Grants and Operations/ STEP Project Director at WTC Utah.
Interviewed by the newest member of our team, Marketing Intern Clayton Chudliegh, Nicole shares her background, current role, and why you should go global now with the help of WTC Utah and the STEP Grant.
Clayton Chudliegh: Thanks for taking the time to meet with me today via Zoom, Nicole! Let’s start by talking about how long you’ve worked at World Trade Center Utah.
Nicole Sherwood: I have been with WTC Utah for almost three years, come this October. I have really enjoyed working at WTC Utah. No day is the same so you could be working on a variety of things such as different events, assisting companies who want to enter new markets or expand, and figuring out how to best help companies with a challenge they are facing. It’s been an exciting three years!
CC: What were you doing before you joined the WTC Utah team?
NS: Before WTC Utah, I was doing compliance for government bonds, so WTC Utah is definitely more exciting! I have a background in law, accounting and IR.
CC: With that type of background, what was it that initially drew you to WTC Utah? You mentioned that this is more exciting than your previous work, but what else about this position enticed you?
NS: I am from Utah and have been following World Trade Center Utah as well as going to their activities since the organization began a little over 10 years ago. I always knew about the organization, so when the position opened up to work on the STEP Grant, I was drawn to it. I do have a governmental accounting background, and you have to use those skills with that type of work. In addition, I am very interested in international activities. In law school, I focused on international law and was really interested in the business aspect of it, so this position ticked a lot of boxes for me.
CC: Do you use some of those skills that you’ve learned with your law background in your role? I know you are more business focused now, but how do they overlap?
NS: I use my law background to make sure that we are in compliance with all of our grant’s terms and conditions. Whether it be to go to a trade show or working with companies personally, I’ll use those legal skills. Especially with contracts or understanding any international law, it’s been a great background to have.
CC: You’ve mentioned that you work a lot with grants. Could you give an example of what grants or programs are currently available for Utah companies through WTC Utah?
NS: Absolutely. I am the STEP Project Director. STEP is funded in part through a Grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and is administered by World Trade Center Utah. Last year, I focused on the outdoor industry so I took 10 companies to ISPO Munich in 2019 to help them find new ways to connect with international distributors and opportunities. Some of the companies I led to ISPO were Cotopaxi, DPS Skis, UltrAspire, and Hand Out Gloves.
Last year, I introduced national SBA staff to life science company Maxtec which was a great opportunity. Maxtec has utilized the STEP grant for a number of activities including their participation in Governor-led trade missions abroad and life science-based international trade shows. Another example, ACT Aerospace, have joined us at JEC World for multiple years in a row. They are a rural company so it’s great to work with different companies in different industries and areas in Utah including rural companies. We also try to focus on working with women-owned, minority-owned, and veteran-owned businesses.
CC: It’s wonderful to hear how WTC Utah and the STEP Grant help Utah companies achieve their international goals. Could you describe where you find most satisfaction about your work?
NS: I really enjoy working with small businesses. Whether it’s going out and, for example, trying a sno-go bike, or hosting grant application trainings, I really enjoy actually being with these companies and getting to know them.
I also enjoy comparing a company’s growth from when we started working together to where they are today. For example, I began working with Coalatree 3 years ago and they have really excelled internationally through participating in many of our events.
Another noteworthy experience was the ‘Shark-Tank’-like pitch competition we held. The winner received grant funding through JPMorgan Chase & Co. Utah Export Acceleration Grant.
And last but not least, I am very proud of our success in applying for the STEP Grant. In 2019, we competed in the STEP Grant process on behalf of the state of Utah and were awarded the largest increase among all grantees nationwide.
CC: Wow! That is great news for WTC Utah and the companies we help. My last question is focused on Utah companies that have not yet taken advantage of the programs and grant funding available to them. What would you say to a company that is reading through this interview and isn’t sure where to start?
NS: I would say that they should reach out to WTC Utah immediately. I work with companies who are new to export, those who may have exported a little, and those who have exported for a while but are looking to expand even further. In each case, the grants we administer help these companies grow their business. There is no cost to apply for our grants, and with the challenges faced by businesses during the pandemic, now is the time to utilize these funds to develop a strong base.The funds can be used for things like website optimization, translation services, compliance testing of an existing product, shipping fees, and most international business-related items you can think of.
Additionally, we are partnering with SLCC and their Global Business Management course and the cost of that course can be covered with STEP Grant funding.
You can learn more about the STEP Grant at: wtcutah.com/grants/step-grant/
Also, I encourage anyone who could benefit from WTC Utah’s services to reach out with questions at: (801) 599-9185 or firstname.lastname@example.org