How Do I Start an Import Export Business?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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To start an import export business, you'll generally want to begin by deciding which type of company you want to start. You also will have to register your business, obtain insurance, and select a niche in which to focus initially. You will also have to find effective ways of approaching contacts with whom to work.

The first step in starting an import export business is determining how you would like to proceed with your endeavor. For example, you could choose to focus on export management and help companies in your country find buyers for their products. Alternatively, you could choose to start an export trading company by making connections with foreign buyers and then looking for companies in your own country that can meet their needs. If you’d prefer to purchase products from foreign and domestic sellers and then ship and sell these products independently, you will likely choose to become an import export entrepreneur. In this way, you might view yourself as a sort of international free agent.


Once you've decided which type of import export business you want to run, the next step will likely be starting your business legally. In most jurisdictions, this means securing business licensing as well as acquiring any special licenses or permits you need to start an import export business. This will usually vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but you can obtain licensing information from the Department of Commerce in the US or from similar organizations in other countries. Additionally, you may do well to seek insurance for your business before you get started.

There are many types of products and companies on which you can focus when you start an import export business. When you are just getting started, however, allowing yourself to be pulled in too many different directions might make success harder to achieve. Instead, you may best choose a niche of products or industries with which to start at first. As you build your reputation, gain experience, and earn profits, you can gradually grow your business to the size you desire, taking on additional products, industries, and companies.

The most difficult part of starting an import export business is also among the most important. To successfully start an import export business, you will have to figure out which companies you want to target. Then, you will need to establish a campaign to interest them in working with you. Often, a combination approach to marketing this type of business is most effective. For example, you could use phone calls, email, faxes, and postal mail to reach out to contacts. Additionally, in-person presentations are often very effective.

Once you've generated the interest you need to start an import export business, you will typically have to work with purchasing and sales managers of various companies. Having product and price lists handy can facilitate sales. Additionally, you might find that some companies will want to see samples before they buy.


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