Importing and exporting is a lucrative industry. As the global economy continues to grow, the need for people who can handle transporting items across customs boundaries is growing along with it. For those who want to start their own business, importing and exporting can be a great choice. However, it is one of the more complex options, so you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re getting into. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything that you need to know to get you started.
Establish Your Business
When you’re going to start importing or exporting goods, you’ll need to choose a specific business to focus on. You might have something in mind, or you might just know that this is the market you want, regardless of the product that you end up going with. Either way, you will have to get the foundations in place before you can do anything.
Import/Export Business Industry Options
Anyone considering this industry has several choices for starting their own business. You could choose to focus solely on importing or solely on exporting. You may also choose to be an industry specialist, manufacturer’s representative, or even a merchant or agent, which is someone who operates more on a freelance basis. The one that works for you is going to be up to you. It’s helpful to have someone on your side that can walk you through the process and explain the pros and cons of each.
It’s even more helpful if you or someone involved has a background in business, global finance, and international business operations. The compliances required can be complex and it’s difficult to keep everything in mind at all times, so it isn’t for everyone. You’ll need to start by making a business plan and registering a business name. Then you’ll need to license it and get the insurance and permits that you will need to run your business.
Funding an Import/Export Business
Many industry professionals working in importing and exporting advise that it’s a good idea to have your capital upfront and make sure that your financing is in order before you start your business. Unlike some industries where you can grow and scale as you go along, importing and exporting is easier to get right the first time so that there are fewer growing pains along the way.
Of course, it’s not a requirement to have the money up front– it will just make things easier. If you have yet to line up business loans because you’re not sure what you’ll need, now is the time to figure it out. Consider SBA loans, grants, and other funding sources that might offset any unsecured loans or credit lines that you need. There are also ways you can build business credit without a personal guarantee.
Choose Your Product(s)
While some industries will tell you the actual products don’t matter as much as the business itself, the exact opposite is true with importing and exporting. In fact, the product is exactly what you need to have in order to figure out how to import and/or export properly. The rules are different for all kinds of items, so knowing what you are going to focus on will play a big part in setting up your business and setting yourself up for success.
You might want to choose on helping a specific market or industry get into the international market. Perhaps, like the makeup brand India Rose, you want to provide items to people in hard-to-reach areas like Quebec, which is notorious for its ultra-strict importing guidelines. Whatever you choose to do and however you choose to go about it, make sure that it’s a wise business decision and that there is a need in the market.
Slow and Steady
This is not a business you can dive into head-on. In fact, it’s best that you do as much research as you can before you get started. Test your ideas, consider what you’re looking at and see if it’s viable, and make sure that you are paying attention to what people want. You might realize that the smallest change could make the biggest difference. It might also just take time for your business to catch on, so don’t make any hasty decisions.
Once you’ve found and priced a product, as well as sourced a supply for that product, you’ll be able to start marketing to customers. Again, it might be a good idea to check and double-check that everything is in order before you open your doors, but marketing can be done at any point.
Where to Find Customers for Your Import/Export Company
Think about the items that you want to import or export. Where are you going to find people to buy those products so that you can do business? You can’t just start taking your products to the local port and hoping someone will buy them on the spot– you have to find clients, distributors, and others who will take your products and sell them to others on your behalf.
How can you do this? There are several ways, but local marketing is most effective. If you have contacts in the area, use them for all that they’re worth. Check the local Chamber of Commerce, embassies, consulates, and other resources. You’ll find all kinds of contacts that you can use to bolster your importing or exporting business.
Learn the Logistics
The biggest part of success in this particular industry is in getting the details and logistics right. In addition to finding a good supplier, you’ll want to make sure that you understand the logistics of the supply chain and the coordination that is required to make your importing and exporting efforts effective. This can save you a lot of time and help you avoid serious mistakes, fines, or other risks.
If you can take advantage of the resources that you have, it can be a great idea to start an importing and exporting business. These are profitable entities and the market is full of opportunity because of the complex nature of international business that often keeps many people from considering it as a viable option. However, when you do it right, it doesn’t have to be difficult.
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