UPS introduces the ground rules for the X-port challenge to 10 finalists from Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

If there was a star of the UPS X-Port Challenge, you might argue that it was the garage. 

A rendering of the new Aventure Aviation campus.
A rendering of the planned Aventure Aviation campus expansion.

Aventure Aviation, an airplane parts exporter with 80 percent of sales abroad, started warehousing its products there 15 years ago. Now it has a large campus in Peachtree City, where it just purchased more acreage to build a new headquarters and a parts repair shop. 

M-Clip, a manufacturer of high-end, patented money clips and related men’s accessories in Savannah, also started out of a garage. Founder Ron McGarity had to create a more permanent solution after his golf buddies ribbed him about using a black binder clip to corral his bills and credit cards. Wallets were just not working for him. 

“They tend to get fatter and fatter and fatter,” he said in his pitch. 

Now, M-Clip uses a larger facility to stock and ship goods manufactured around the U.S. with premium domestic and imported wood and machined metal. M-Clips are sold all over the world, with a particular focus on golf shops in places like the United Kingdom, which it also serves through an shop. Japan and China are big potential markets, and the company just signed up a Caribbean sales rep. Next year looks to be a big one for a company that wants to do a quarter of sales overseas. 

M-Clip sends its high-end money clips all over the world.

“We’re not big, but we’re big enough to need our own building,” Mr. McGarity told Global Atlanta

While neither won the challenge, both companies showed how exports help small companies grow. That was one of the goals behind United Parcel Service Inc. bringing in firms from the Carolinas and Georgia to pitch to five local judges in a Shark Tank-style setting for a chance to win $10,000 in shipping credit.

The inaugural X-port Challenge was an initiative of the South Atlantic district of UPS, a business unit including the three states. Like many government and economic development agencies in recent years, UPS was responding to the need to encourage small and medium-sized companies to expand internationally. Less than 1 percent of all U.S. companies export, despite the fact that more than 95 percent of the world’s population and 70 percent its purchasing power resides outside the U.S. 

“Global is the new local,” said Dwayne Meeks, UPS South Atlantic District president, who also served as chair of a recent regional export challenge. “Our drive is to open new doors to help you reach the endless opportunities that the world marketplace has to offer.” 

Among the finalists were producers of food products, t-shirts made from plastic bottles, medical devices, a solar generator for off-grid applications, padlocks and more. 

The only Georgia winner was PureAir Filtration, which placed third. This comes after the company also won $5,000 in a first-round award and $10,000 as a second-place finisher at the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s recent Metro Export Challenge. This time at UPS, President Kevin Jameson won despite not donning lederhosen as he did in the first Metro Atlanta Chamber pitch to showcase his company’s efforts to win business in Germany

The first-place winner at the UPS event was Durham, N.C.-based HAP Innovations LLC, which makes the spencer electronic medication dispenser for patients that take seven or eight pills a day. The connected, touchscreen device sits on a countertop and aims to increase engagement with the patient, then sending data back to pharmacies and physicians. The company took home $10,000 in UPS export shipping credit, plus $4,000 in UPS Solutions credit with a free consultation. 

That’s key, since the company is entering places like Canada and Europe, centralized health systems where insurance partners are helping with market entry. 

“The key piece for us has been choosing partners that allow us to go global,” said Tom Rhoads, HAP’s CEO, during his pitch. 

Second place went to Morrisville, N.C.-based Tracy’s Gourmet, which makes salad dressings and other natural and organic food products.

At the event held at UPS headquarters, UPS made a surprise a announcement upping the award amounts. Second-place included $2,500 in export shipping credit and $3,000 in UPS Solutions. Third had $1,000 and $2,000, respectively. 

Although they didn’t win, Aventure Aviation still saw the value in connecting with the many UPS execs that attended, along with the other companies. 

Founder Zaheer Faruqi was in China on a nearly month-long mission to build up sales opportunities there using some of the $20,000 the company took home as first-place winner of the Metro Export Challenge, according to his sons Talha and Hamza, who made the pitch on behalf of the family-owned company. With regard to exports, Talha said the company goes the extra mile into far-flung areas of the world to gain personal touch with clients. His brother underscored the firm’s commitment to the global marketplace: “We can’t afford to fail because we’re a family business.” 

The 10 finalists for the UPS X-Port Challenge in the South Atlantic District:

  1. Aventure Aviation
  2. HAP Innovations LLC (Winner, first place)
  3. LLNH Inc.
  4. M-Clip
  5. Medifacx
  6. PureAir Filtration
  7. Recover Brands
  8. Ranger Lock
  9. Socket Circuits
  10. Tracy’s Gourmet

Learn more here.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...

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