How to Start an Import/Export Business in 7 Steps

Import:Export Business

An import-export business connects domestic and international buyers and sellers while also ensuring that all local regulatory requirements are met. This trade, which dates back to the biblical era, guarantees that products are supplied from countries with abundant supplies of a commodity that other countries lack. 

Beverages, home items, custom glass bottles, and everything in between are all examples of imported/exported goods.

Find out how to start your own import and export business and if it’s the right fit for you. This basic guide to beginning an import/export business has been put together by experts. These stages will ensure that your new company is well-planned, legally compliant, and correctly registered.

1. Create a Company

Choose a name for your import and export business.

You’ll need to choose a name and double-check that it isn’t already in use. You can accomplish this for free at the United States Patent and Trademark Office or through the secretary of state’s office in your state.

You may register most small enterprises with your state and municipal governments. You’ll also need to get any necessary company permits. Keep in mind that some localities have particular restrictions for home-based enterprises.

You won’t need to register your business name if you use your own name. When you create a separate legal business, however, you have legal and tax benefits as well as liability protection.

Obtain a Tax ID Number

Determine whether you require a federal tax identification number after you’ve registered your name. The Internal Revenue Service can tell you if you need an employer identification number and how to get one.

Doing the Business Between States? 

If you want to sell over state lines, there are a few things to consider. Before filing, you may need to hire a registered agent in your state. You can get assistance from the Small Business Administration in determining what you need to accomplish.

If you’re planning to use a website, ensure the domain name you desire isn’t already taken. Start with the US Department of Commerce’s InterNIC. Create the social media accounts you desire for your import-export company as well.

2. Select Products for Importing or Exporting

Selecting the products you wish to sell is one of the most crucial things you’ll have to do. It helps if it’s something you’re passionate about or if you know whether you’ll be able to make a decent profit.

One major topic to address is what distinguishes your product or business from those of your competitors. You should spend time researching your target market while you explore for ideas. If you want to sell something online directly to consumers via Amazon, Shopify or eBay, you’ll need a different strategy than if you want to sell to businesses.

The Market Potential Index and the International Trade Administration can help you evaluate import and export company ideas. Another important partner that can help you significantly is a reputable sourcing firm such as Matchsourcing

3. Find Your Vendors

If you can’t make the thing yourself, you’ll have to purchase it. Alibaba, Global Sources, and are also helpful resources for finding vendors.

These websites can provide you with pricing ideas and assist you in calculating profit margins depending on sales.

4. Pricing Should Be Determined

When you’re launching an import-export firm, one of the most important considerations you’ll make is pricing. If you set your pricing too high, you risk being priced out of the market. If the price is too low, you might not be able to pay your bills.

You should consider the volume of sales and the profit margin on individual units when establishing price points. Markup is the difference between what you pay for a product and what you charge for it.

Import and export enterprises often mark up items between 10% and 15% above wholesale pricing.

5. Locate Your Clients

It’s great if buyers can find you online, but organic website traffic isn’t something that happens by chance. To target your potential clients, you may need to use search engine optimization strategies as well as a combination of paid search ads, social media ads, and more traditional advertising and marketing techniques.

6. Organize The Logistics

You have a few options, and it will most likely come down to cost. You have the option of importing products in bulk to your location and then fulfilling orders yourself. While you can try to handle logistics, depending on where your products come from and where they are marketed, the process might get complicated.

Freight Forwarders

Freight forwarders can assist in navigating the bureaucracy of dealing with foreign governments and suppliers. You’ll have to pay them, but they’ll be able to act as middlemen and arrange freight transfers.


Dropshipping is another possibility. You don’t keep things in stock or buy them ahead of time in this circumstance. When a product sells, you buy it from a third party who then ships it to the customer.

7. Create a Business Plan

Importing and exporting goods and services will necessitate the creation of a corporate business plan. This serves as a roadmap for how you’ll build your company and is required if you need to secure funding. Before investing in your import and export business, lenders will want to analyze your business plan.


The import and export industry is indeed appealing. According to Statista, total commerce in the United States reached $4.14 trillion in 2019. Imported goods and services totaled $2.5 trillion, while exports totaled $1.65 trillion.

Starting an import-export company can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. You’ll be one step closer to breaking into the sector if you follow exact methods and build a clear plan of action.


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