In the first quarter of 2010, China showed the highest quarterly growth (12%) of any country ever. Although privately owned enterprises (POEs) are an important factor behind this immense growth, knowledge about how they have become key exporters is scarce and largely overlooked, especially regarding how they started to go abroad. Two major take-off processes from the domestic market to the foreign market are studied. The critical importance of the development of the local emerging market behind the possibilities of taking off is stressed, as well as how firms change between indirect and direct export modes. The research is based on an abductive case study research approach, where primary data is collected through interviews in the Yangtze River region. The case study involves six privately owned family firms run by strong and dominating entrepreneurs. Major empirical and theoretical conclusions, including nine propositions, summarize the article and indicate areas for further research. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.