S3 AeroDefense thrives through commitment to world markets
Founded by three partners in a windowless basement in 2005, S3 AeroDefense provides spare parts and repairs parts for military operators around the world—a line of work that required it to come up to speed quickly in international marketing.
“Our very first customers were overseas, and so we needed to figure out how to do exports,” said Aksel Sidem, the company’s president.
The Milwaukee-based company, driven by a vision to deliver cutting-edge and cost-effective solutions to the military aviation aftermarket, experienced remarkable growth. In 2011, it added a certified repair station, offering a broad scope of in-house repair capabilities. In 2018, the company formed a strategic partnership with Dermond Aerospace, whose founders are pioneers in the military aftermarket.
Building an international profile
S3 quickly built a reputation for exporting success. It was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2010 as the small business exporter of the year, and also received the U.S. Department of Commerce President’s E Award for exporting excellence.
Company officials are committed to growing international business; fully 100% of S3’s 120 employees are directly involved in international activities. Because of that, S3 employs a multicultural, multilingual team that, combined, is fluent in at least 14 languages.
As the company honed its export strategy, it took advantage of the ExporTech™ Program (offered by the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Northwest Wisconsin Manufacturing Outreach Center with support from WEDC), which helps small and midsize Wisconsin companies tap into new markets with a customized export strategy. The firm also made use of International Market Access Grants from WEDC to conduct market assessments, attend a trade mission, and have a presence at the Paris Air Show, the premier event dedicated to the worldwide aviation industry.
“I heard about ExporTech and wanted to participate, and I’m glad I did,” Sidem said. “The ExporTech Program—it’ll fit all businesses that really want to venture out and start exporting their products.”
Unlocking success around the globe
Today, S3’s global reach extends to more than 55 nations, and it supports a network of offices in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
Since 2018, S3 has created more than 60 new positions to support export growth and related activities. In addition to attending flagship aviation industry events, it expanded its presence at trade shows across previously untapped regions.
S3’s laser focus on international markets has paid off in sales. The company saw revenue grow by 31% from 2018 to 2022—notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic—with export sales making up 23% of the total.
The company’s commitment to export markets earned it a 2023 Governor’s Export Achievement Award.
“At S3 AeroDefense, we’re committed not only to achieving excellence in aerospace but also to supporting WEDC’s mission to boost Wisconsin’s export economy,” added Sidem. “This recognition inspires us to continue our dedication to innovation and global collaboration, furthering the economic success of our great state.”