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What is an Import Export Business?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 16, 2024
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Import export businesses, also known as international trading, are one of the hottest commercial trends of this decade. American companies trade in over 2.5 trillion dollars a year in merchandise, of which small businesses control over 95 percent. As the owner of an import export enterprise, you can work as a distributor by focusing on exporting and importing goods and services that cannot be obtained on national soil (e.g., Russian caviar and French perfumes) or those that are cheaper when imported from other countries (e.g., Chinese electronics). In addition, you can also open an export management company (EMC), where you can help an existing corporation market its products in a foreign country by arranging the shipping and storing of the merchandise for them without doing the actual selling. EMCs can specialize in one industry or work with different types of import export manufacturers. It is also possible to act as a broker for a company, working on commission over the actual sales. This is a great choice for products that are guaranteed to sell because of high demand or an established brand name.

While basically any country can offer opportunities for import export trade, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and China have topped the trading chart for the past two decades. In the last few years, countries in the former Soviet Union and South America have become major players, but there's still much to learn about trading with these new markets.

Opening an import export business requires an initial investment of $5,000 or more, depending not only on the type of merchandise you're setting up to market, but also on whether you plan on working from home or renting an office, hiring employees, etc. Compared to other businesses, however, import export companies have a very low startup cost. While most products can be exported without the need for licenses, some specialty products or high-risk items, such as firearms or pharmaceuticals, may require special government permits. If that's the case, costs may run considerably higher.

To get started, it may be sensible to consult with the local Board of Trade (or the Chamber of Commerce in smaller cities) or call Consulates and Embassies to find out if they have import export programs set up. Many embassies even have a special department to promote the export of their goods to other countries and are more than happy to help potential traders.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By Maruf — On Jun 21, 2014

I am Maruf from Bangladesh, and I want to start an import export business. I want some information about learning the export/import business. What will be the investment need for that? Please help me.

By anon339786 — On Jun 27, 2013

Great article. In addition, before starting any kind of business, planning and organizing manpower is a must. Without planning, you can't achieve your goals.

By anon326285 — On Mar 20, 2013

I am from India and I have an import/export license. I want to export spice oils, herbal products and other products from India. I am looking for international business partners who can bring import orders.

By anon313612 — On Jan 13, 2013

I'm Noor and new in business. I have a supplier in China who will send me some goods here in Afghanistan. I would like to know how much import tax will they pay for us? And the same for export.

By anon306909 — On Dec 02, 2012

I am planning to open an import and export business from the USA to China and Africa, so I am writing my business plan. If anyone has a suggestion to improve my business plan, please let me know.

By ImExExpert — On Sep 18, 2012

The best thing to do is to take a course that teaches you about importing and exporting. A real import/export business is more than just finding one buyer for one product. There are rules, regulations and nuances about the industry that you must be aware of to be successful. You also need a website and an email associated with it. The number one sign of a scam or dealing with someone who is inexperienced is that they will use a free email account.

Remember that importing and exporting is a privilege afforded to you by the government. If you, even unknowingly, make a mistake on your documentation or do not make the proper disclosures, your privilege can be revoked and suffer consequences. A knowledgeable, successful trade broker works as an intermediary, connecting buyer and seller and collecting a commission. This method is preferred as you do not actually buy the products, so your risk is minimal.

By anon284025 — On Aug 07, 2012

I've actually heard that import/export market is one of the hottest out there. Especially with things like corn export, where corn is native to the Americas, and therefore is much more easily grown here. If you strike big, you strike gold.

By anon230394 — On Nov 19, 2011

I am an mba student freshman and I want to make my career in export and import. Please suggest names of related companies from the career point of view.

By anon166389 — On Apr 08, 2011

i am raja from india and i am a proprietor. i want to import memory cards from china. i am new to this field of import/export. how can i start import from china? help me to understand. do i need import/export codes and registration?

By kailasraut — On Mar 10, 2011

I am Kailas R. I want to start import export business for packaging material. I am new to this. can somebody help me to know more about import export business?

By anon135933 — On Dec 20, 2010

I am Piyush From india (Gujarat- Rajkot)

and i am new and i want to start an import- export business so i want information about this business so can anyone can help? thanks.

By anon130306 — On Nov 28, 2010

i am govind. i would like to know about import export business. how do i start this business.

By anon122913 — On Oct 30, 2010

I am prakash from noida (India) and i want to know how i can start a import and export business

By anon106267 — On Aug 25, 2010

I am vivek s. I want to know what is the procedure to start an import export business. what is the appropriate investment for it, and what all are the legal terms for the same?

By anon105330 — On Aug 20, 2010

I am chintan p. from India, and I want to start an import export business. i want to some information about a training center. what will be the investment need for that? please help me.

By anon89867 — On Jun 13, 2010

Hi i am Shiv from India, I want to start an import export business. I want procedure for the same.

By anon77151 — On Apr 13, 2010

i am new in the business and i want to export wine to england. Can you help me?

By anon69906 — On Mar 10, 2010

how are we supposed to know what your or their tax bracket is?

By anon37800 — On Jul 21, 2009

Hi good morning. if an individual person wants to start an import & export business what will be the investment need for that...

By anon18816 — On Sep 30, 2008

hi im lena who is new in business.. i have a supplier in taiwan who will send me goods here in the philippines.. i would like to know how much import tax will they pay for us?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
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