Las Vegas Market Works With USAID to Help Ukrainian Exhibitors Expand Their Business in the U.S.

March 15, 2023

Even in the midst of a war — perhaps all the more so — companies look to exhibitions to help grow their businesses. After domestic demand dropped sharply when Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022, Ukrainian furniture companies were forced to look beyond their borders for sales.


That was the case for eight Ukrainian companies that exhibited in a pavilion at the Las Vegas Market, which was held Jan. 29-Feb. 2 at The Expo at World Market Center. Ukrainian owners, operators and reps made the arduous journey to display their goods at the biannual market in the hopes of creating connections with more retailers and expanding their international sales.


At the Ukrainian Pavilion, companies were selected by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which supports development and disaster relief in countries across the world. USAID worked with the show organizer, International Market Centers (IMC), to help the companies exhibit at Las Vegas Market, covering exhibition space rental and the promotion of the Ukrainian Pavilion.

 To find out more about how the program worked and what the experience was like on-site, we interviewed a Ukrainian exhibitor, a USAID representative, a representative from the Ukrainian Export Office and IMC CEO Bob Maricich. Here’s what we learned.

Watch this video to see what the Ukrainian Pavilion at the Las Vegas Market looked like. 

 Q&A with Ukrainian exhibitors, export office and USAID


Why did you decide to exhibit the Las Vegas market?

Julia Lisovska, sales director, Tivoli, a Lviv, Ukraine-based manufacturer of chairs and tables: “Because it is one of the biggest shows.”


What's the goal of the Ukrainian pavilion?

Iryna Mykulych, international relations manager at Transparency International Ukraine, the entrepreneurship and export promotion office of Ukraine: “The major goal is to bring our producers to the international market, particularly to the U.S. market. Our role as a state institution is to help our small businesses bring their products to this market, which will boost our economy, as well.”


What's the experience been at this Las Vegas market?

Lisovska: “The first day was very busy. We received (our) first orders on Sunday.”


What is your biggest takeaway from market?

Jeff Michels, furniture and export expert, USAID Competitive Economic Program Ukraine: “What is really interesting is just to see the overall reactions from a lot of the potential customers. We have five or six companies physically present. We have 10 more who are in the catalog. It's interesting to see how people are reacting to each manufacturer — some better than others — and to hear their guidance on what could be possible adjustments for some of the product lines. That is a big takeaway. Even if you're not looking monetarily at the immediate term, getting that feedback is really valuable.”


Mykulych: “I've talked to people who mention that they visited us in the summer. So I think as long as you keep appearing here, every single exhibition, people will recognize you better. This is my takeaway. As many times we are here, it will just increase the deals, business and visibility.”


What was the process for you to travel and send your goods to market with your country being in the midst of a war?

Lisovska: “For the goods, it's not a problem at all. Goods could be loaded from Ukraine and delivered to one of the most popular port in Poland or in Germany. The delivery time is quicker because from Germany it could be like 12, 14 days only. For people, we just cross the border, and we can fly from the nearest airport as normal people.”


Mykulych: “If you ship goods, it's not a problem at all. But the road for people is actually not as easy as it sounds. For example, for me to travel from Ukraine, it took me four trains to get to Warsaw, and then I needed to switch two planes actually to get here. It's a bit more complicated than it was before the war. (Before) I just drove like 20 minutes to the airport, board a plane and switch the plane in Germany or somewhere else, and I'm done.”


Michels: “I really do believe that when you're looking at the fact that we have five, six companies physically present right here at the Las Vegas Market even during a war in Ukraine, it really speaks for me about the resiliency and the determination of the Ukrainian people. They're unstoppable.”


What advice do you have for other Ukrainian companies that would want to participate in a program like this?

Mykulych: “We are the ones who select the companies who are actually ready to exit the market. They need to have the website in English because many of our companies, they don't, unfortunately. They have really good staff, they have really good prices, but unfortunately they're not ready to enter to another market. But marketing, and making, for example, professional shooting of their products and making catalogs, this would be helpful for them.”


Michels: “Part of my role with USAID is to give direct feedback and recommendations to the manufacturers in terms of how they can adjust some of the current models of furniture and to be able to sell to the American market. Sometimes it's as simple as changing a pedestal leg on a piece of furniture or the fabric of upholstery. There are adaptations that need to take place, for any market, including the American market.”


Mykulych: “Participation in such an exhibition is vital. Even if the producer is not ready 100%, they can come here, they can talk with customers and then they will be able to adjust to the need of the customers in this particular market.”


Watch or listen to the full interview here.


Q&A IMC CEO Bob Maricich


How did this program come about with USAID and how does IMC work with the organization?

“The collaboration between IMC and USAID is the next chapter in a multi-year plan to bring Ukrainian furnishings to the U.S. through the Las Vegas Market. When longtime exhibitor, Tivoli, a Ukrainian furniture manufacturer, committed to the Summer 2020 Las Vegas Market, they expanded their space to create a Ukrainian Pavilion. After multiple successful showings at Las Vegas Market, they felt that Ukrainian furniture manufacturers would do well in the North American market. They were interested in not only their businesses success but also in the success of Ukrainian furniture manufacturing as a whole. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruption in the 2020 markets, and the Ukrainian Pavilion was not able to open




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