Business Overview

An import and export business matches domestic and foreign buyers and sellers, ensuring all local regulatory requirements are abided by. Dating back to the biblical ages, this trade ensures that products are distributed from countries that have a rich supply of a commodity that other countries lack. Imported/exported goods include anything from beverages and household goods, to everything in between.

Who is this business right for?

The individual who is seeking a unique opportunity that requires very little start-up capital, low overhead costs, and has significant room for expansion should consider this business endeavor. The entrepreneur who feels passionately about a particular product that is currently not being imported/exported, or is just now getting recognized, will be that much more likely to succeed.

What happens during a typical day at an import & export business?

While some entrepreneurs are happy with just importing/exporting one product, many choose to move on and work with several trades. This is a great way to expand your business and reputation. It does, however, take hard work and understanding your market. Market research will be an integral part of your day, as your business’ success relies on your ability to identify the best products, as well as the best potential foreign market for each product or service. The U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade and the Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s Data and Analysis are both great resources for this research.

Your research doesn’t stop there, however. Once you’ve identified your goods and/or services, you will need to learn everything there is to know about that product. Which manufacturer makes the best? Are there improvements that could be made? Who will your supplier be?

The most important component to your business is the contacts you make and the relationships you are able to foster. Your research should help you in identifying upcoming trends. Once you’ve determined that, it’s time to get to work making the connections that will help you deliver those products to countries in need. There are a number of resources to assist you in making those connections. Commercial attachments for foreign consulates are often a great place to start, as their primary purpose is to establish outlets in the United States. The U.S. embassies in foreign countries are also a great resource, as are the Chambers of Commerce for your target cities.

A typical day in the life of an importer/exporter includes the following:

  • Reviewing agent fulfillment, initiating any necessary changes.
  • Reviewing all email inquiries, answering any questions that may come up.
  • Reading news sources to determine if any changes and/or movement has occurred in your industry. Making decisions based on this movement.
  • Analyzing movement and issues to determine your strategy moving forward. Devising a plan for new business opportunities.
  • Attending networking events. This will often include travel and/or phone conversations with partners overseas.

While there are a number of items you will need to address each day, part of the appeal to many in this industry is that no two days are alike.

What is the target market?

Your target market will vary, depending upon the product being delivered. As a result, market research should be an integral part of your daily routine. Diligence and preparation will ensure you properly identify potential customers, what geographic areas will play a part in your business, and what products offer the highest profit potential.

How does an import & export business make money?

An import & export business receives a commission for each import and export they facilitate.

What is the growth potential for an import & export business?

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the global trade industry offers significant opportunity, both now and moving forward. $1.2 trillion in goods are imported annually, while $772 billion in goods are exported from the United States each year. 95% of this trade is represented by the small importer/exporter, leaving a significant amount of room for those interested in entering the industry.