Georgia Exporter Spotlight: MMJ Labs dba Pain Care Labs
A Q&A interview with Jennifer Tipping, Director of Global Business Development
Industry: Medical Devices
Founded in 2006 by pediatric emergency doctor and pain researcher Amy Baxter MD FAAP FACEP, Pain Care Labs is on a mission to eliminate unnecessary pain. The company develops reusable, inexpensive products for personal pain control. Using the physiologic technique of “gate control” and conditioned pain modulation, the company's devices block pain by stimulating the motion nerves and thermal nerve feedback system. In 2018, the company accepted the Frost & Sullivan award for “Technology Leader in Noninvasive Pain Relief” for expansion of the technology to address pain and the opioid crisis.
What motivated your company to start selling internationally?
Pain Care Labs started selling product in 2009 and our first international sales began the following year to Australia and the United Kingdom. For the first five years pretty much all our exporting was reactionary. Foreign distributors kept approaching us wanting to re-sell our product, but for the most part, they were never the right fit. Once we realized there was demand for our products we decided to be proactive about finding the right partner and actively pursue international opportunities.
What is the biggest lesson your company has learned about exporting?
You need to be extremely thorough on the front end choosing an international partner. When you consider a foreign distributor, you have to carefully evaluate whether or not they have the right experience importing your product and what kinds of sales channels they already have in place for distribution. In our case, we look for experience with importing an FDA-registered device, an existing distribution network for medical devices and sufficient sales and marketing resources to cover the territory.
We leaned heavily on the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) and UGA’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) early on in the process to develop an international strategy and distributor profile that met Pain Care Labs’ needs. They still help us review distributor applications and properly vet potential candidates through due diligence reporting and credit checks.
How have GDEcD’s International Trade Team and its partners helped your company achieve success internationally?
I cannot reiterate enough how much Pain Care Labs has benefitted from the services provided by GDEcD’s Trade Division and its partners, in particular SBDC’s International Trade Center and the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS). They have helped with a variety of export-related issues from identifying and vetting potential partners to advising on how best to take foreign payment to helping craft communication to ensure distributors thoroughly understand compliance and regulatory issues involved in re-selling U.S. products abroad.
I don’t ever hesitate to ask our GDEcD Trade Manager “What do you think about this?” because I know they will steer us right. In addition to their team in Atlanta, GDEcD’s international representatives have been immensely helpful to our success abroad. Just last year, Georgia’s representative in Israel was instrumental in getting our product registered in that market. Having someone familiar with the market guide us through the process and help us understand standard market procedures really made a difference.
What advice do you have for companies that are just starting to export?
Don’t feel like you have to do it on your own. Exporting is so much easier to manage if you take advantage of resources available through organizations like GDEcD, SBDC and USCS; there are experts who can hold your hand through the process if you know where to find them.
We also learned that there are many “easier” markets to start out in and that you can take advantage of export opportunities without spreading yourself too thin. You don’t need to jump in by exporting to every country – start small in markets that make sense for your business and grow your international strategy from there.
What has been your biggest export achievement?
For Pain Care Labs, one of our biggest achievements was attending MEDICA for the first time in 2017, which actually ties into another piece of advice I wish we learned earlier – research your customers and go to where they are. Having the opportunity to travel on an affordable basis with the Georgia Department of Economic Development to a premier global tradeshow was extremely valuable for Pain Care Labs and quite gratifying on a personal level. We were incredibly pleased with the successes that came out of exhibiting at that show and decided to return and exhibit again in 2018.
To learn more about Pain Care Labs visit www.paincarelabs.com.
Are you a Georgia business looking for help growing your international sales? Find out how Georgia’s International Trade Team can help at Georgia.org/Trade.