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Aruba, August 27, 2012 - Frank Lavin is a connected guy in Washington and Asia. He served as U.S. ambassador to Singapore, led trade negotiations with China as Undersecretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and held senior posts in the Asian offices of Bank of America (BAC), Citibank (C), and public relations behemoth Edelman.

His friend Karl Rove plugged Lavin’s book, Export Now: Five Keys to Entering New Markets. “It’s a little different from what you might typically find on my reading list,” Rove wrote on his personal blog. “[But] this is a must-read for any business owner looking to realize growth potential by developing an export strategy.”
Lavin’s connections are helping him build a new kind exporting business. Export Now (it shares his book’s title) is a middleman for U.S. manufacturers that want to sell their consumer products in China. Headquartered in Akron, not far from Lavin’s hometown of Canton, Ohio, the 15-person business handles the headache-inducing back-end work for its clients, from customs clearance to trademark registration to order fulfillment. Lavin says Export Now, which also has an office in Shanghai, is backed by “a few million dollars” in equity capital.

Rather than negotiate with retailers as a traditional distributor would, Export Now posts product descriptions on its storefront on Alibaba Group’s, an Amazon (AMZN)-like shopping colossus in China that is adding more foreign retailers as demand among its nearly 500 million registered users increases for U.S.-branded goods.
“China is the fastest-growing consumer market in the world, but it’s still viewed as largely inaccessible for all but the top-tier U.S. companies or global [multinationals],” says Lavin. “Tmall is the largest shopping mall in the world. We have a department store in the shopping mall, and any U.S. company can have shelf space in the department store.”

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