Through an investigation of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) exporting in contexts which lack a formalised institutional environment in a less developed country, this article shows how entrepreneurs cope with institutional deficiency. By drawing on an analysis of 12 SMEs exporting from Ghana to other West African countries, the findings reveal how entrepreneurs and their organisations avoid recourse to the courts and instead, use culturally specific relationships to settle disputes when exporting. Institutional forms operating in parallel to the formal legal system are examined. These are shown to be hybrid forms drawing on traditional cultural institutions such as chieftaincy and religion, combined with forms of corporations and cooperatives. Assumptions around the different roles of family and kinship also are explored. The study contributes to the ongoing development of a theoretical understanding on trust and relationship building in international entrepreneurship, and the importance of understanding cultural context.