Have you heard the home startup import/export stories? Do you have time and money to invest in a business that can start from home and expand exponentially? Start an import/export business from home. People love to try new things!
Whether it be food, furniture, clothing or an experience, novelty is one of the biggest factors in driving new sales when it comes to products and services.
With the world now more accessible than ever thanks to globalization, you can import new goods to your local market with greater ease than ever before. You can also export things from home to markets abroad, although that is a little trickier, and for the purposes of this article we’ll focus mostly on importing.
Whether you decide to go on an adventure to Bali to find unique pieces of hand-crafted furniture to import, or just settle for browsing Alibaba.com looking for a product which fills a gap in the market, starting an import/export business can be both profitable and an adventure all in itself.
Let’s tale a closer look at how to make money importing (or exporting) products.
Step 1: Pick a Product & Find a Source
The first decision you’ll need to make is whether you plan to import something from abroad or export something from your country to somewhere else. It will likely be easier to do the first to begin, since finding markets in other countries may be challenging unless you have contacts stationed there.
Once you make a decision, you need to think of a product to import/export. Some common products which are imported and exported are:
> Arts & Crafts – Paintings, tapestries, indigenous art, carvings, statues, you name it, crafts stores and consumers will buy it.
> Clothing – People are constantly searching for hip new looks from around the world. Vintage and alternative clothing fans especially love wares from exotic locations.
> Commodities – From coffee to copper, businesses need commodities to create goods to sell in their local markets. If you find a niche, B2B supplying can be insanely lucrative.
> Food and Drinks – There’s always room for a new taste or flavor. Spices, herbs, treats and delights from around the world always have some place in the market.
> Furniture – People need to sit, sleep and store their things, and many will fork out top dollar for unique, stylish, or just plain different types of furniture.
Once you pick a product you think has a great chance of selling, look at different sources and compare prices. It can sometimes be good to have more than one source in case one fails or disappears. Diversifying your supply chain can only help you sleep easier at night as things begin to grow.
Pro Tip: When looking at sources consider which countries have a trade agreement with yours and whether you might find your product there. Even if it is more expensive per unit, the tax and tariff savings could add up to mean it’s a better deal overall.
Step 2: Research your Market
While this is one of the first steps in any successful business venture, it’s especially key in situations where you are importing or exporting goods which may be perishable.
You need to thoroughly assess who you aim to sell to, what price they can afford to pay, how quickly and at what times they are most likely to buy, and who your competitors are.
If you plan to import or export a product in bulk, it may be best to work with existing outlets to distribute your product, especially if it has a best-by date. If you plan to sell it yourself through your own store or an existing web marketplace like eBay, it may be best to do a test run and test demand and buy supply accordingly.
Know the who, what, where, when, why and numbers of this business before you import or export a single grain of salt. You don’t want to be left with a warehouse full of goods and nobody to sell it to, running out of time.
Step 3: Get a License
If you are importing virtually anything from abroad, especially into the United States, there’s a very good chance you need to obtain a permit or license from the government.
There are strict rules and regulations regarding what can and can’t be imported into most countries. Food stuff may have to be quarantined before clearing, materials which clothes and fabrics are made from may have to meet fire-prevention standards, and crafts and furniture may have to be tested and fumigated for bugs.
Don’t overlook this step as the penalties can be steep. You’ll also need a valid permit to be able to declare taxes and keep everything 100% legal.
Visit your local government website or trade department and possibly consult an attorney to get all your ducks in a row. If you plan to export abroad, you need a local attorney to advise you and possibly a local partner.
Step 4: Figure Out Shipping and Do a Test Run
Shipping can be the biggest expense in this business, so it’s best to really look at your options in detail.
Will you need a 40 foot container to move your goods, or can it be shipped via parcel through a carrier like FedEx? How long it will take to get to your destination, what it will cost per kilo or ton, and whether or not the shipping firm provides insurance are all things to consider.
This can really eat into your profits, so make sure you run your numbers very carefully and shop around for the best deals.
When you find a shipping partner you think you can work with, it may be a good idea to do a trail run, if practically possible.
Step 5: Sell, Sell, Sell!
There are many ways to sell your product from plugging into existing retail outlets and forging partnerships with local markets sellers, through to building your own direct sales team, building your own website, or leveraging the power of existing online marketplaces like EBay or Amazon.
Most people will likely begin small with a single shipment and see how it goes. Be sure to have a steady supply linked up, though, because, with the appetite for all things new and novel growing by the day, you just might take off a lot faster than you think!
Have some sort of sales projection worked out whereby you anticipate X amount of sales by date Y. If you beat this forecast by any significant margin, be sure to adjust your re-ordering schedule to ensure you don’t run out of supply before the next shipment arrives.
Starting an import/export business can not only be profitable but fun, too.
With deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership happening whether you like them or not, you might as well look on the bright side and use them to your advantage – new markets are opening up, and you’ll be able to buy and sell like never before as the world marches on towards globalization.
The import/export business can be an adventure if successful. Who knows where you may go to find your next unique product?