Hanna D. Bauer, President and CEO of American Book Company and a member of the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group Executive Council, recently returned from Brazil as part of her company’s planned expansion to the global market. In an interview with AAP, she talks about how the Learning Group’s Global Forum sparked the initial idea, how she chose her target country, and what she learned from her colleagues abroad.
When did you first start seriously considering and planning to enter the global market?
At the 2013 [AAP PreK-12 Learning Group’s] Global Forum I received great advice and insights about entering the global market, which helped me develop a two-year plan. I also made valuable connections at the Forum, like Andrea DaSilva, US Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration. She helped me understand more about doing business abroad, other agencies that could help me and introduced me to Michael Waters from the US Export Assistance Center in Atlanta, who immediately got involved in our global strategy.
What were your next steps for developing your business plan?
I spent the next few months studying the global market, learning what we needed to do to get our business ready, and determining the best country for our first overseas venture. This included being selected as 1 of only 10 Georgia companies for the ExportGA 2015 program led by Rick Martin from the SBDC, and working closely with the International Trade Division Officers from the U.S. Commercial Service (Clint Brewer) and Georgia Economic Development (Priya Verma). This required us to introduce and acquaint them with the educational publishing industry, and getting their advice on how to be export ready.
We also entered (and won!) the Atlanta Metro Export Challenge; only 35 companies made it to the semi-finals and received grant money towards implementing their international business plans. We are now part of Georgia’s exporting plan and will be competing for the final prize in July. The competition helped us refine our strategy and enabled me to utilize the Gold Key service to travel to our target country, Brazil, where we were hosted by the Georgia Trade Specialist, Patricia Bartels, and US Trade Specialist, Thales DeMarchi. We had full days planned and were able to have effective discovery meetings with potential partners.
How did you identify Brazil as your target country?
There were a variety of factors, but one of the biggest was thinking about how we could enter the market. In addition to developing educational materials, we are a book manufacturer through ABC InkPress, and Brazil is still heavily invested in print books. (There is a growing digital market, but they are currently where we were a couple of years ago, talking about how to enrich digital content and not just make a PDF version of a book.) Working with them on print book publishing and serving their US market supply chain needs seemed an easier transition than working first with the content.
Next, we saw Brazil as a good anchor for the Latin American market. We have a diverse workforce at American Book Company – many of us speak Spanish – so this seemed like a natural fit for our company culture.
Most important, both the Brazilian government and the publishing industry were excited about the possibilities of working with us and open to collaboration as it had been an untapped industry for over a decade.
Hanna Bauer (CEO American Book Company)
Daniel Cabral (International Market Coordinator)
Patricia Bartels (Trade and FDI Specialist - State of Georgia, Brazil)
What were some of the highlights of your trip to Brazil?
The Brazilian Book Chamber (CBL) and the U.S. Embassy in Brazil were very excited to have us there. We overestimate how much publishers know about each other around the world, and this was a fantastic opportunity for me to introduce AAP, our business and the U.S. market to them, and for me to learn how the Brazilian industry works and what their needs and challenges are. They were very excited to receive the invitation to the upcoming AAP CIC.
I met with eight publishers, and they are all so invested in helping the students, just like here. They share the same dreams and fears we have about the industry: With so much material available online, are we still relevant? Is content still relevant? How can we deliver the best content to students? How can I protect my content? What is the business plan in this emerging market?
What stood out to you about the Brazilian educational publishing industry?
First, educators are a part of every conversation when it comes to developing content. Many of the publishers own and run schools, and they work directly with the teachers to make sure that the materials are meeting their needs and the students’ needs.
Second, the books reflect the diversity of culture without it being regulated or explicitly demanded. It’s part of their ethos that the content mirror the world of the students. It’s just how it’s done.
Similarly, dual-language learning is quite prominent. Materials are developed in multiple languages (Spanish, Portuguese, English) that work across the curriculum. There is not, however, standardization across publishers for content, reading levels, etc.
We also share many of the same issues. In addition to the questions about going digital, they are starting to debate copyright and what going digital means for rights protection. As they are facing changes in government however, there is what I would say good anxiety, as they are seeing a whole new global market and possibilities to be part of the conversation.
Finally, you can tell how much they love the products they produce. Every aspect of the materials was chosen with great care, and the publishers talk about and show off their products with great pride.
How has this entire process impacted your views on the industry?
They share the love of content, the love of our industry, and take such pride in their jobs. For them, books are a treasure. Meeting with the Brazilian publishers has made me fall in love with my industry all over again and has refueled my passion to see it thrive so we can impact more lives.
The next Global Market Forum will take place Monday, June 6 in Philadelphia as part of the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group’s annual Content in Context conference. Visit www.contentincontext.org for more information.