Parc recycles plastics and ships them abroad, at a healthy profit.
Kathy Xuan has banked on the international market, and it has paid off for her Romeoville-based plastics recycling business, Parc, which keeps hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic from ending up in landfills each year, or in Xuan’s words, turns “trash into gold.”
The company, which markets various types of recovered plastic and has some 100 international customers, gets 90 percent of its revenues from exports to Asia, including China, Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as to Latin America and Canada.
Xuan says the company’s success is “truly based on reputation and innovation.”
Both are important for other entrepreneurs looking to play in the international market, she says, adding, “We have been a pioneer in this business since day one” and have focused on quality.
Xuan, the 2012 U.S. Small Business Administration Exporter of the Year for Illinois, has come a long way since she launched the enterprise in 1996 by shipping 18 truckloads of recycled plastic to China for sale.
“I didn’t know anything about plastic,” she concedes, but her timing was perfect.
“At that time, industry demand in China for raw materials was overwhelming,” with the economy taking off, but “they didn’t have the chemistry support, so they relied on the import of raw materials, plastics,” she says.
Xuan persuaded industrial customers to purchase her recycled plastic, which helped them reduce their materials costs.
She sold all of that initial shipment and proceeded to build her customer base.
Since then, the company has opened a full-service recycling processing facility at its Romeoville headquarters, which it purchased with the help of an SBA loan. It also has a full-service production plant in Qingdao, China. Parc, which began with two people, today employs 40.
Its services include recycling, purchasing and sales of plastics, including post consumer, post commercial and post industrial as well as contaminated materials.
Over the next five years, Xuan’s goal is to boost Parc’s domestic business and double international sales.
Tips for doing business internationally
“Take advantage of local resources that can help,” says Xuan. “Find support from the state department of commerce, international trade centers, international trade associations. They often have offices overseas that can supply essential data and leads in your industry and can find out key persons for you to contact.”
“In the countries you intend to do business with, hire local partners or employees,” she says, noting that will “double your effort. If you truly want to open a market, you definitely need to put down roots.”
Have a one-size-fits-all approach. “Travel there,” Xuan says. “Learn how business is run” in the country in which you’re seeking to do business.
For example, in China, business owners have to deal a lot with government officials, and social life plays an important role, so “having drinks and dinners are essential to developing and building up relationships,” she says. You have to respect face time as well as straight business.
“You have to have an understanding of cultural differences.”