Jamezell Ottinger, vice president of international business, Nioxin Research Laboratories Inc.

In 1987, Eva Graham started a company out of her suburban Atlanta home, making a product to improve the appearance of thinning hair. She and her sons bottled the solution with a small hand-operated machine, selling it to salons door to door.

Fast forward 21 years. The company, Nioxin Research Laboratories Inc., was sold last fall to Procter & Gamble Co. for around $300 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Still located in Lithia Springs about 20 miles west of downtown Atlanta, Nioxin is now shipping its product across the globe. International sales increased by double digits last year, said Jamezell Ottinger, vice president of international business.

Mr. Ottinger will spend the entire month of May in China. He will come back to Atlanta for Memorial Day weekend before heading off to South Africa.

“Several years ago, we were in 20 countries,” Mr. Ottinger told GlobalAtlanta. “We are now in 42 countries and that expansion continues.”

Asia and Latin America are particularly strong growth markets. Nioxin entered the market in mainland China a year ago. It is expanding into six Latin American countries, including Chile and Brazil.

Nioxin still makes all of its products except hairspray in Lithia Springs. Products for shipment overseas are hauled by truck to various U.S. ports.

The company sells to distributors who buy in bulk from Nioxin and sell to salons.

Daniel Brodsky’s company was awarded the distributorship in Peru. Corporacion Allied Peru S.A.C. has been selling hair and beauty products for 10 years and wanted to add Nioxin because it is a sales leader in hair thinning products, Mr. Brodsky told GlobalAtlanta by e-mail.

“In order for us to become distributors, I was invited to go to Atlanta and meet the Graham family and tour their impressive operation and manufacturing facility,” Mr. Brodsky said. “We launched Nioxin in Peru in May 2008 and the line has been steadily growing.

As it tried to break into new international markets, Nioxin got help from the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the U.S. Commerce Department. The Commerce Department’s Gold Key Service was particularly helpful in the search for distributors, said Mr. Ottinger.

“In Bogota, Colombia, the Commerce Department set up 15 interviews within the embassy there,” said Mr. Ottinger. “They’ve been great for us. They have offices all over the world.”

Nioxin’s acquisition by Procter and Gamble, which owns a long list of brands including Gillette and Tide has further helped the international push.

A key in selling abroad is getting government approval to sell the products. “If your product is not approved by the health ministry, then it doesn’t matter what you do on the sales side, it’s not going to get past the front door of the country,” said Mr. Ottinger.

The approval process is different in each country. Some are much more difficult than others. In Europe, for example. once a product is approved in one country, it is allowed in every other nation in the European Union.

In other countries, such as Brazil, the approval process is much more difficult.

”The shortest approval I have ever seen is three months,” said Mr. Ottinger.  “There are some products in Brazil that can take up to a year.”

Nioxin, which in 2007 won an export achievement certificate from the U.S. Export Assistance Center, has one person on staff who specializes in government regulatory issues. Procter & Gamble has specialists in every country. “It’s been a huge help,” said Mr. Ottinger. “We now have a person in every country who is going to help us move product through the system.”

With new tools and resources – and the Proctor & Gamble brand behind it, Nioxin sees nothing but expansion ahead as its fills in white spaces on the world map where its products are not yet sold.

One giant market still untapped is India, second in population only to China.

“I can see in the next five to 10 years rapidly expanding globally,” said Mr. Ottinger.