Many aspire to start an import/export business because it can be highly profitable and rewarding. This business entails selling products or charging fees for services, and there are various ways for owners to reduce overhead costs to optimise profitability.

The potential to earn optimal profit depends on the quality of preparation done to establish the business. Also, the business owner must make wise decisions regarding product selection, marketing and pricing. Doing so allows the import/export business to gain a competitive edge.

Aside from these, you'll also need to consider the resources available, such as financing for business, suppliers, logistic services and others. If you'd like to know more about how to start an import/export business, here's a quick guide you may find helpful.

1. Conduct Market Research

Before starting your import/export business, you'll need sufficient knowledge and familiarity with your target markets before starting your import/export business. Doing so will help determine if offering products or services would be viable and profitable in a specific market. Then, you can focus on the most promising ones and eliminate others.

The market research stage is the time to test your ideas and calculate risks. This step is part of the ideation process to help you create a structure for your future business.

2. Create A Business Plan

A good business plan can be the key to the success of your first import/export venture. It can help you make informed decisions on the first crucial steps in building your business. Also, an effective business plan can help you save money and boost profitability once your business is up and running.

One of the essential parts of creating a business plan for importing and exporting is deciding on a business model. Here are the three kinds of import/export businesses to consider:

Export management company

In this business setup, you'll be handling the exportation of goods for domestic companies to help them reach customers abroad. It covers overseas distribution, including advertising, marketing, invoicing customers and shipping.

Export trading company

If you want to source local products and distribute them to buyers overseas, then an export trading company might be right for you. To do this business, you'll need to utilise your resources and invest in products to sell for a profit in other countries.

Import and export merchant

Being an import and export merchant allows you to source local and international products for global distribution. In this setup, your company will pack, ship and distribute products to earn all the profits.

Your business model will be the foundation of your new venture. Moreover, an effective business plan will be advantageous if you're looking for funding for your new enterprise. It’ll help you convince more investors and creditors to help you turn your dream business into reality.

3. Explore Products

Once you've selected a business model, the next step is to explore products you're interested in selling. You can develop a short list of items you'd like to sell. Depending on your business model, you might find it profitable to distribute more than one product in a specific period or season.

If you're particularly interested in or passionate about a product, this might be the perfect time to explore ways to put it on the market as your primary offering. You can also identify manufacturers and suppliers to determine which products are easy to acquire.

4. Prepare The Business Essentials

Like any other startup, you'll also have to handle several organisational and administrative tasks to get your new import/export business up and running. Here are some of the business essentials you'll need to prepare:
  • Business license, permit or registration, both local and international
  • Your domain name and company website
  • Mobile app
  • Special license for regulated products, such as alcohol or tobacco
  • Social media accounts on different platforms
Because your business involves shipping and sourcing products from various locations, you'll also need to plan logistics for your supply and distribution.

5. Introduce Your Products And Services To The Market

Once you’ve identified your target audience in a particular location, you'll have to devise a plan to introduce your business to them. You can explore various marketing strategies to reach your target client pool and make your presence known.

Thanks to the rise of communication technology, you have many marketing options to choose from, one of which is digital marketing. This strategy is effective while being time- and cost-efficient, which is why it can be your best bet if you want to introduce your brand to your target market.


The import/export business is an excellent opportunity for those looking for a highly profitable venture. If you're new to this industry, it's wise to conduct adequate preparation before you invest resources in this business. As with other companies, your knowledge, preparedness and efforts could help you reap the best rewards in the import/export scene.