96% of the world’s consumers reside outside the United States. A fact that has not escaped Joe Janson, Founder and CEO of Night Vision Technology Solutions (NVTS). NVTS designs and builds electro optical infrared camera systems for military, autonomous and manned surface vessels and vehicles, search and rescue, and situational awareness. They also design cameras to support the offshore wind industry, including a new marine mammal surveillance system inspired by the call to protect the North American Right Whale during offshore construction. In response to COVID-19, NVTS is launching a cost efficient second-generation “Fever Spotter” camera, drawing on company expertise in thermal sensor technology.
While successful in the U.S., NVTS has found success in numerous foreign markets. Exporting night vision cameras, coupled with the growing demand for machine learning, has created new business opportunities, enabling NVTS to hire additional engineers to expand the product line. Janson estimates that exports vary year to year from 25-60% of overall business, having shipped product to UK, Greece, Turkey, Finland, Vietnam, Portugal and Saudi Arabia. NVTS continues to work toward growing overseas markets, regularly submitting proposals internationally.
“Exporting and hunting is the same,” said Joe Janson. “You don’t wait for the food to come to you season after season. You need to get out there and find it. It’s challenging, but essential in our business,” he added.
NVTS credits the SBA’s International Trade team, Rhode Island’s State Commerce Department, and the local US Export Assistance Center in contributing to NVTS’s growing success as an exporter. The SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), managed through the John H. Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University, also offers a multitude of services for small RI companies looking to grow their business overseas. Janson took advantage of STEP resources and funding opportunities, including well organized “Trade Missions” to Colombia and UAE. Collaborating with the Chafee Center and US Commerce, NVTS also accessed business matchmaking services abroad, and was afforded a presence at multiple foreign trade shows.
“NVTS has benefited tremendously from Rhode Island’s STEP assistance program, helping us fund the search for overseas sales agents, secure exhibition space at trade events, and support Spanish Translations for our web site. STEP assistance opens doors, but it is up to each company to commit time and resources to cultivate export business. It can take years to break into a new market, but you have to stay on it! Perseverance eventually pays off” said Janson.
Over the years, NVTS has built a strong relationship with the Chafee Center and its Assistant Director, Linda Woulfe, who nominated them for this award. “Anyone who has worked with Joe Janson and his wife Julie know what a joy they are to work with! They never fail to acknowledge the people, programs and organizations that work with them and they want to share information with anyone else who could benefit,” said Woulfe. “They have participated in numerous Chafee Center and Rhode Island Commerce programs which have helped them expand their international sales, including assistance through the SBA STEP grant, participation in our state-led trade missions, representation in our Rhode Island booth at international trade events and participation in export training seminars. Now, during the pandemic, they have used their knowledge and expertise to develop two body temperature cameras to help detect people with elevated temperatures from a distance. Always eager to learn, ready to embrace a new opportunity and not afraid to ask questions, Joe and Julie are truly deserving of this award as the Rhode Island & New England Small Business Exporter of the Year,” she added.
Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Janson was able to acquire a PPP loan from the Business Development Company of Rhode Island. The funds helped cover the NVTS’ payroll during these difficult economic times. Along with continued support from Woulfe, Janson credits Kathy Therieau of Commerce RI and Keith Yatsuhashi of the U.S. Commercial Service, for their ongoing support through informative webinars and virtual introductions. “We’re fortunate to have them leading the way for Little Rhody along with Jeff Tingley and Manuel Batlle. It’s a team effort,” said Janson.
As the 2020 Rhode Island and New England Exporter of the Year, NVTS is a beacon and model for fellow small business owners interested in entering the exporting arena. Joe Janson and his team continue to prove that while we may reside in the smallest state, with exporting the opportunities are endless.