Starting a Small Import Business

container vans at the pier

Imported goods are those that are produced or manufactured in one country but are sold in another. If you find an excellent brand with high-quality products that are not necessarily from your country, and you can see yourself finding a market for it where you live, starting a re-selling business might be a good idea. In addition, if you are an organized person who has a knack for business and marketing, starting a small business like this might bring out the best in you. Here are some tips for starting a small imported goods store.

Find an untapped market

An untapped market exists wherever there is a demand for a product or service that is not being supplied yet. Do your research and check: Are there high-quality brands in other countries that are not being sold in your area yet? It might provide you with an opportunity to be the first channel through which customers will gain access to the product. The key to finding an untapped market is good research, thorough observation, and a keen insight into emerging trends. If you don’t find a market for the goods you’re planning to import, you might find yourself bankrupt in the end.

Check import laws and trade barriers

After finding a market opportunity or a specific brand or product you want to import, don’t neglect to check your country’s laws and trade barriers to ensure that what you’re planning on having imported to your country is legally allowed to enter. The United States, in particular, is known for its import-friendly laws. Still, it does have plenty of quality controls and stringent safety measures that don’t necessarily exist in other countries.

Another example of a trade barrier you should watch out for are religious items, protected goods, or products that have a rich cultural and historical meaning to their country of origin. Practically speaking, this may include specific animal by-products that have a lot of ethical conversations surrounding them (like fur and ivory), as well as counterfeit designer goods and products that certain governments ban.

When deciding on what to import, make sure you choose products that won’t cause you to have a run-in with the law and your country’s trade barriers.

ship at the pier

Settle on reliable suppliers

Once you’ve decided on a certain product, you will need to decide on a brand or a supplier, and you will also need to plan the logistics of how the goods will come to you. If you have someone you trust living in the product’s country of origin, consider inviting them to partner with you in the business so that they can be the first middleman. They can help you with the purchasing and shipping of the products, and they can help you find and coordinate with a reliable sea cargo company that can ensure that your goods will arrive in perfect condition.

But if you don’t personally know anyone who can help you or you don’t think it’s a good idea to start a business with a friend or family member, consider looking at wholesale supplier directories and platforms. Come up with a list of suppliers that match your requirements, reach out to them, and ask them questions about how they can provide what you need for your small business. At the same time, you need to do your due diligence and ensure that they are a legitimate enterprise. Here are some requests they should be able to address:

  • Client references
  • Product samples
  • Business licensing
  • The physical location for their company
  • Compliance information

Consider it a red flag if they can’t provide at least one of the things listed above. Immediately weed out those that can’t provide you with this information, and prioritize suppliers who can.

Additional Tips

  • Make sure you have adequate capital. Going into the import business entails you have enough capital. This is because you will have to buy in bulk outright. You would also need to think about the necessary taxes when those goods are imported.
  • Because you will, presumably, be the first person to bring these products to your shores, you will be completely liable for the products. There’s a chance you can be held legally accountable if the product turns out to be faulty or harmful, so make sure that your goods are above reproach.
  • Manage your inventory well to ensure that you don’t end up with many products that you don’t know what to do with.

Starting any business takes a lot of hard work and determination. Give yourself a chance to see if going into the export business is for you.

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