According to Kingston University, which surveyed 1,500 entrepreneurs, this rises to 82% after two years, reports The Daily Telegraph.
However, less than one in 10 of the respondents that aren’t already exporting said they were considering doing so next year, while more than half said they were not interested in overseas sales at all.
Glass supplier Sharda Glass makes 20% of its sales overseas. Its managing director, Neil Sharda, suspects those who are not considering exporting are missing a trick.
After visiting a Qatar trade-show, he came home with 2,000 contacts and analysed the best opportunities. He then returned to the Middle East and had 45 meetings in five days. “More small businesses need to dip their toe in. Just get out there – they want to see the top man, not minions.”
Lord Green, the Government's trade minister, said small companies are often held back by a simple "fear of the unkown".
"You don’t have a planning department to tell you what to do and where so it’s, 'where am I going to go? Do I go to Europe or China? What will I face when I get there? Will I get paid?' These are the real quetsions small businesses face. The answer isn’t to not try, it’s to get the help that’s there; UK Trade and Investment, Chambers of Commerce, and often other businesses."
He said it was too early to say whether UKTI was on track to meet its target to double the amount of small companies it assists in exporting each year to 50,000.
"It looks like it’s growing but I can’t tell you that we’re on track yet."
He said some of its services had been "outsourced" in seven of nine English regions to Chambers of Commerce to find more firms that could use its services. "They’re the people with the networks. We’re on the case [to widen uptake of UKTI]."
He admitted the use of UK Export Finance products, such as Government guarantees and insurance by overseas traders, had been "disappointing".
"We’re looking at the products and whether we need to tweak them. There’s a lot of detail down to, are the forms right?
We’ve got a job of work to do to get the services known to the banks and [small businesses]."
He added: "There's an important role for Chambers of Commerce, banks and the Federation of Small Businesses [in export promotion]."
Barclays, which commissioned the research, has launched a Business Abroad product offering discounted foreign exchange, documentation and payment services for small firms.