How Department of Development resources are connecting 212 Environmental to Brazil
Earlier this year, Cincinnati startup 212 Environmental found themselves in a predicament. The company, a consultancy formed by experts in analysis of human health risk and vapor intrusion, had begun exploring the international possibilities of a new product, and had started forging partnerships that included the potential to tap into markets abroad. But with a small, self-described “blue collar” team that lacked international experience, they weren’t sure where to turn. That’s when a mentor at Cincinnati’s Alloy Growth Lab pointed them in the direction of the Ohio Department of Development’s Export Assistance & International Engagement programs, which opened the door to a whole new world for 212.
“We identified that we’ll really need the ability to sell these products internationally,” said Co-Founder and Manager Paul Michalski. “So not only had we never sold this product, but we’ve never sold internationally, and we needed to be able to demonstrate our capabilities to our partner. So we reached out to the State and said, ‘Hey, we have this opportunity and we need help.’ Right away, we received help through a number of programs.”
First, the company participated in an Ohio export management class and received an International Market Access Grant for Exporters, which provides eligible companies a 50% reimbursement of up to $10,000 in grant funds to engage in activities to increase export sales. Now, they’ve added hands-on help from the Ohio Export Internship Program, which matches students training in export coursework with companies who need them and reimburses up to 50% of intern wages. But 212 didn’t just need any intern, they were looking for someone fluent in Portuguese and familiar with Brazil to help their outreach to that major market. They found the perfect intern in Jessica Emmert.
“Without missing a beat, they identified Jessica, who had direct importing experience in Brazil, speaks Portuguese and is very polished,” Michalski said. “So I have no issues putting her in front of our partners. And she’s very quickly developing our capabilities to export to Brazil. We’ve had calls with them where Jessica will set up a path forward for us to help them with importing and exporting as well. So we’ve gone from 0-60 in no time at all. She’s been with us for three weeks and we’re already developing the ways we’re going to export our first products into Brazil later this summer.”
Emmert, an MBA student at Tiffin University, is a native of Brazil and had a background in international business, which made 212’s international goals as interesting to her as her qualifications were to them. And in a few short weeks, she’s already begun leaving an impact on the company while getting the experience she craved.
“I tried to understand their products and what it would take for us to be able to ship down to Brazil because it’s not just a regular sale, there are so many details involved,” she said. “So I’ve been working on requirements and certifications in the U.S. and in Brazil, cost-friendly ways of shipping and understanding the duties and tariffs that apply. It’s about getting all the information to understand, cost-wise, what it will take. It’s not all tangible, but it’s a lot of research.”
That variety of her work and research has rapidly accelerated 212’s international timeline. And for Michalski and his team, the internship experience has been unlike any other. Rather than a new team member to train and worry about, the Export Internship Program has provided a valuable team member who he admitted is more qualified than the existing staff at times.
“She’s a lot more polished than we are,” he said with a laugh. “We’re pretty blue collar, and she comes in wearing a suit and sets a tone. She’s not a ‘go get the coffee’ intern; I have a lot of confidence that Jessica will be able to deliver our ability to export our products by the end of the summer. This really isn’t an intern, she’s a professional, and she’s going to solve a real problem for us. I’m incredibly impressed.”
And for Emmert, the experience at 212 isn’t about doing menial tasks or watching others work. Instead, she’s making a mark on a company doing work she appreciates, and she’s doing it while gaining the real-world experience that could be a major boost for her career.
“I didn’t want to go somewhere I’d just be doing random intern things, but because I’m working with a small company, I’m the person who knows what has to be done to get our products down to Brazil,” she said. “So I’m not doing anything other than what my interests and career are going to be. I’m researching and understanding how they can be compliant with everything. So it’s not serving coffee or those things, and I’ve already been able to apply a lot of what I studied.”