How to Set Up an Import Business


Importing is the process of bringing products from one country into another. Importers are international middlemen. Overseas manufacturers use importers to distribute products in the United States. Importers have the opportunity to travel all over the world. Although the thought of importing creates images of larges warehouses and cargo ships, importers can conduct business from home. An import business can be started with a small capital investment.

Things You'll Need

  • Business license
  • Federal Employer Identification Number

Find overseas product sources. Narrow your focus to a single industry to determine what products you will import. Locate import sources at Kompass, a business to business import and export directory or a similar service. (See Resources).

Develop import plan and strategy. Research import controls, tariffs and non-tariff barriers. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has much of the information you will need. (See Resources).

Research the demographic factors. Obtain age, gender, race and economic indicators of consumers that will purchase your imported products. Obtain this information by reading The Statistical Abstract of the United States. (See Resources).

Research the product potential. Determine whether the product will be profitable when sold in the U.S. market. Calculate importing and distribution costs plus desired profit to determine your selling price. Determine if your import will be competitive by researching the price of similar products currently being sold in your market.

Find buyers based in the United States. Establish business accounts prior to importing merchandise. Develop long lasting business relationships.

Determine method of market entry. Enter market by using manufacturing representatives, distributors, wholesalers or sell directly to retail stores. Research the United States standard of distribution practices for the products that you import. Limit number of middlemen to keep the prices competitive.

Open bank account. Establish a relationship with a bank that can provide full service international banking support.

Research the freight and shipping terms. Read “Importing into the United States” (See Resources). Click GPO Access-FD sys. Type “Importing into the United States” into the search box.

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact overseas manufacturers who do not currently sell their products in the U.S.
  • Follow importing regulations thoroughly.

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