Do you want to start an import & export trading business from home? If YES, here are 50 best small scale import export business ideas & opportunities. According to the United States Department of Commerce, importations account for an annual $1.2 trillion in goods. Exporting is equally as big in its own right as American companies exported $772 billion worth of goods to over 150 overseas countries.
The world’s third biggest exporter is the united states and its exports accounts for 13% of GDP. The market for import and export for many product lines are already saturated and there is information to back this up. So to avoid facing any kind of problem in this business, make sure that there is a genuine need for the products you want to deal with. When you have done this, with a lot of commitment from your end, your business is off to a good start.
If you think that starting an export and import business is what you want to do, then you may want to consider starting an import export business. Here are some business ideas that you can begin to act on. You can cash in on international trade with any of the under listed business ideas;
50 Best Import Export Business ideas & Opportunities
- ONLINE IMPORTATION
You must have heard about Alibaba.com, Aliexpress.com, DHgate.com, IPmart.com and several other online based marketplaces. All these websites listed above deal with online trading as they ship to other part of the world. You make your order and payment online while they ship your product to your provided address. You are also to pay for the cost of shipping.
The internet has brought down the walls which used to restrict access to manufacturers located thousands of kilometers away. Improvements in transportation and logistics now make it possible for small businesses with little capital to import smaller amounts of stock at low shipping costs. The beauty of this business is that with little start-up capital and access to the internet you can start earning a good income.
- IMPORT/EXPORT BROKERAGE
An import-export agent or broker, also known as a trade agent or customs broker, is an individual or a company that sends and receives goods to and from different countries. Import-export agents or brokers work with both importers and exporters by helping them prepare necessary documents for exporting or importing their products. They also help their clients establish connections in foreign companies.
So, they work on both ends of import-export deals that of the origin and that of the destination. To become an import-export broker, you must understand the basic jargon of import-export law, currency transactions, trade policies, and everything else that goes into making profitable import-export deals.
- PRODUCT SOURCING AGENT
As a product sourcing agent you can conveniently plug into the export value chain. What a good way to build up a successful exportation business from nothing and have fun doing it? Not only does it require little financial investment to start you don’t need previous experience in the field to get started, but you should have a good head for organizing and paying constant attention to little details. As a product sourcing agent, you will need to make contact with exporters.
You can register with some trade portals where you will have access to their chosen commodities, specifications and contacts details. You can also send a mail to them and inform them that you can meet their requirement. As a product sourcing agent, you will deal majorly with farmers. You will need to go to their farms and deal with them directly and you might need to transport the commodity to the city. You can also deal with the local buying agents and the commodity merchant.
- CLEARING AND FORWARDING BUSINESS
If you have the logistic and business management skills, as well as an entrepreneurial spirit, you may just be fit to learn how to start a freight brokerage business. As a freight brokerage company, it is your duty to act as a mediator between shippers and client companies who need their services and facilities. Their tasks also involve clearing your goods from the ports, paying up your duties and taxes, transporting your consignment to your desired destination, etc.
Sometimes, freight brokers are referred to as clearing and forwarding agents. There’s much money to be made as a clearing and forwarding agent. The sweetest part is that this business can be done anywhere, in any country; as long as international trade still exists and your country is a partaker, you are in business.
This is another money raining business in this field. A buy and sell opportunity can turn into a lucrative business provided that you do it well. This is especially true especially if you are considering the idea of how to buy and sell used cars.
As technology increases and state-of-the art cars are being produced, people will always have the need to buy new vehicles; thus also creating the need to disposed of old ones. Regardless of the country you reside. Whether you are in United States, U.K, Canada, Singapore, Nigeria, Ghana, etc.; you can import and sell used cars.
- TIMBER EXPORTATION
The construction and furniture sectors all over the world today cannot do without the use of timber, but what is important to you as an entrepreneur is to identify the markets for these products while connecting the timber producing nations to the market, even though very stressful and energy sapping, the pain is always worth it.
- MANUFACTURERS REPRESENTATIVE
If you are specialized in a certain industry, you can very well go to an oversea manufacturer and ask to represent them in the countries of your choice. A representative has the edge because you are the expert in the industry or a certain market.
For example, if you are an expert in the wooden furniture business and you have been selling in the western US region, you have the great opportunity of going to a Chinese furniture maker and asking to be a representative of their western US region. Most of the manufacturers love people like you because you are their free labor (no base, only commission) to help them get into the market. It’s a win-win situation for both you and the manufacturer.
- TOBACCO PRODUCTS IMPORTATION
Although tobacco is generally known to be dangerous to health, the addiction that comes with its consumption has only helped to maintain the increased demand for cigarettes and other tobacco products. While many will frown at this option, the truth remains that tobacco and its products sell well in anywhere in the world, and you can make a fortune from importing them.
- SEAFOOD IMPORTATION
Tons of seafood, such as fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and so on are consumed on a daily basis. Ironically, however, indigenous suppliers cannot cater to the huge demand for these products, leaving open a window of opportunities for importers of seafood. While there are more-than-countable import and export opportunities that you can tap from, you would hardly go wrong with seafood importation.
- ONLINE EXPORT/IMPORT DIRECTORY
Publishing a biannual import/export opportunities directory in printed and electronic format has the potential to make you rich, as millions of budding entrepreneurs worldwide are constantly on the lookout for income and business opportunities.
Simply create an import/export directory that features information about worldwide manufacturers, wholesalers and agents that are seeking to expand their product lines into foreign countries and new markets, or individuals or companies that are seeking to import particular products into their regions.
Charging a fee to be listed in the directory, as well as selling the directories to people who are seeking this type of valuable and potentially profitable information and contact sources would earn revenue for the business.
- DISTRIBUTION WAREHOUSING
Starting a warehousing and distribution service means you can act as a warehouse, shipping and receiving agent for as many as 20 or 30 different companies. This business venture does require a great deal of research and investment capital. However, with careful planning and exceptional organizational skills, this type of business venture is capable of creating a six-figure income per year, all within a very short period of time for the enterprising entrepreneur.
Considering the many red-tape barriers and all the issues surrounding importing products into this country, or exporting products out of this country, it’s no wonder that so many businesses don’t know where to start and just plain give up out of frustration. Of course, the smart business owners who don’t want to miss a single opportunity to grow their businesses and revenues don’t give up.
Instead, they hire an import/export specialist to guide them through the complex issues of the import/export business legal, transportation, warehousing, distribution, marketing, employment, environmental, political and financial.
Starting an import/export consulting business will require experience in the industry, or the willingness to learn about the industry. One simple way to market your services is to develop and host a free informational seminar on importing and exporting and use the event to sign up businesses and individuals who want to get started in import and export.
- ONLINE FACTORY DIRECT
In North America there are thousands of home based manufacturing businesses. Two of the largest challenges facing these entrepreneurs are marketing and competing against much larger and better-financed competitors. Herein lies the business opportunity.
Develop an online ‘factory direct’ Web site that features products for sale manufactured by these home based entrepreneurs. Not only will you be giving these small manufacturing businesses a fantastic marketing and distribution channel, but you will also be giving them a chance to compete for business without having to blow a bundle on developing and marketing their own Web site.
Products sold via the site can be shipped to purchasers directly from the manufacturer, thus eliminating the need for warehousing inventory. In exchange for providing manufacturers with a marketing channel, you can retain a portion of the sales that the site generates; in the range of 10 to 15 percent would be fair.
This type of cyber venture could really prove to be successful, as ‘factory direct’ pricing attracts consumers and securing manufactured goods to be featured on the site would be very easy.
- AGRO-PRODUCTS EXPORTATION
Africa and many developing economies are blessed with a lot of food and natural resources; and most of these natural resources are raw materials needed for the production of some finished products. Every day, tons of raw materials and food products leave the shores to countries such as india, Vietnam, China, USA, UK, Brazil, etc; yet, the demand is never met.
You can become an exporter by simply registering with the appropriate government agency and decide on the specific product you wish to export. Examples of products highly in demand are Chili pepper, Kola nuts, Bitter Kola, Cassava flakes (Garri), Cocoa, Groundnut, Yam flour, Cashew nuts, etc.
- BEAUTY PRODUCTS IMPORTATION
While beauty products are typically quite expensive to purchase in salons, they can be imported quite cheaply from overseas and resold for considerable markup and profit. Regardless of the economic climate, these items are typically always in demand – especially with the female demographic.
- EXPORT MANAGEMENT COMPANY
If you want to partner with domestic sellers to find foreign buyers for a small group of companies over a long-term. An EMC does it all–hiring dealers, distributors and representatives; handling advertising, marketing and promotions; overseeing marking and packaging; arranging shipping; and sometimes arranging financing. If you want to serve foreign buyers, this is a great option for you.
- IMPORT/ EXPORT MERCHANDISING
You will be responsible for purchasing goods directly from a domestic or foreign manufacturer and then pack, ship and resell the goods on your own. If you are interested importing goods from global retailers in bulk then packaging goods up individually for resale, then going into this line of international trade is good for you,
- EXPORT TRADING COMPANY
While an EMC has merchandise to sell and is using its energies to seek out buyers, an ETC attacks the other side of the trading coin. It identifies what foreign buyers want to spend their money on and then hunts down domestic sources willing to export. An ETC sometimes takes title to the goods and sometimes works on a commission basis.
Clothing is another basic need of man. Regardless of the economy, people must wear clothes and this includes shoes, bags, underwear, perfumes, etc. Now there is a fast growing trend now and that is “Used clothes” or “Recycled clothes.”
Since the economy is getting tougher and there’s need to be clothed, the masses have resolved to buying used clothes rather than new ones. Still yet, there is a market for new clothes; for men, women, and kids. You can source your materials from China, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Dubai, India, etc.
- SMART PHONES IMPORTATION
Although smart phones may appear to be “every day” items in markets such as the U.S., they are just beginning to scratch the surface in many developing nations. The cost to produce this type of technology is extremely inexpensive – especially if you can find export opportunities in China for these items.
- USED ELECTRONICS IMPORTATION
While electronics are certainly hot sellers, it is actually the accessories that go along with the latest smart phones, laptops, and other gadgets that are highly profitable items. Many of these items can be purchased wholesale for pennies on the dollar and then resold to the end user at retail price either online or through traditional brick and mortar outlets.
- HOUSEHOLD ITEMS IMPORTATION
Home accessories are another area that is booming when it comes to profitable import export opportunities. This can mean anything from picture frames to candle holders to soap dispensers – and everything in between. Most items for the home are easy to manufacture and can be shipped and sold in wholesale packages.
- CUSTOM BROKER
A customs broker facilitates the exporting and importing of goods with foreign nations that are subject to customs restriction and inspection. These commodities shipments could be small or large and include both perishable and non-perishable products. Some brokers work as independent contractors who render services for different companies.
Customs broker companies and international freight forwarders are usually considered the most employers of professional customs brokers. However, customs brokers also usually work for trade authorities, shipping firms, and export and import companies.
- FREIGHT FORWARDING
The international freight forwarder is a specialist in the field of global transportation and makes arrangements in shipping in accordance with the set standards of the industry. The role of a forwarder is to give advice, inform, and complete all of the necessary documents for the shipment.
Since they regularly deal with different people in an international level, they are aware of the requirements, rules, and policies of each nation with regards to international trade. Also, they are considered experts in the field of transportation.
With the increasing demand for shipping services that offer reasonable prices and promise convenience, speed and reliability, no other time could be better than now for taking a plunge into the shipping business. The industry is growing and rapidly changing—thanks to the increasing dependence on online shopping. However, you must realize the fact that the maritime / shipping industry is highly capital intensive and competitive.
Secondly, starting your own shipping company requires that you have in-depth knowledge of import and export procedures as well as the shipping, container, and logistics industries in your country. You also need to know the legislation for crew members to work on-board your vessels, how to operate vessel within and outside specific ports, how to handle dangerous goods and other types of goods, and how to operate certain communication equipment on-board your vessel and many other legislation.
- COMPLIANCE OFFICER
Compliance officers investigate and audit organizational trade involving pre-determined trade compliance regulations and laws, including domestic and foreign trade agreements. Many compliance officers are employed by local, state or federal government agencies, such as the Bureau of Industry and Security, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Because the consequences of noncompliance with international trade regulations can be severe, including the loss of rights to do business and imprisonment, all companies need to ensure awareness of and compliance with all legal aspects of their import and export activity. While smaller companies may consult outside services, larger companies are more likely to have legal departments dedicated to compliance with tax and accounting as well as export-control.
- LOGISTICS SPECIALIST
Logistics specialists analyze and coordinate supply chains for organizations and businesses. They direct the allocation of materials, supplies and products, overseeing purchasing, shipping, warehousing and delivery. They also present reports on performance data, striving to find cost-effective solutions to production, shipping and delivery of products.
Marketing managers play an invaluable role for importing and exporting organizations, developing and establishing overseas markets for goods and services. These professionals identify markets and develop competitive pricing strategies. They utilize forecasting computer applications and work with various aspects of messaging and communications, including public relations and advertising.
The process of buying foreign exchange, stocks, bonds, and other commodities in one market and immediately selling them in another market at higher prices. This is another business idea for you if you have the means and knowledge.
Export shipments are usually insured against loss, damage, and delay in transit by cargo insurance. For international shipments, the carrier’s liability is frequently limited by international agreements and the coverage is substantially different from domestic coverage. Arrangements for cargo insurance may be made by either the buyer or the seller, depending on the terms of sale.
Exporters are advised to consult with international insurance carriers or freight forwarders for more information. Damaging weather conditions, rough handling by carriers, and other common hazards to cargo make marine insurance important protection for exporters.
If the terms of sale make the firm responsible for insurance, it should either obtain its own policy or insure cargo under a freight forwarders policy for a fee. You can therefore become an insurance broker in the import and export business.
- CASSAVA FLOUR EXPORTATION
Cassava flour has very close substitute in garri, yam flour, plantain flour etc. This notwithstanding, it is a very popular food item that is easy and fast to prepare. The raw material for this project is cassava tubers. The raw material is available all over the federation.
The machinery, accessories and equipment needed to produce good quality cassava flour are cassava peeler, cassava tuber, grinder, sieve, dryer, fermentation tank, sealing /sewing machine and international standard measuring scale. All of the above can be fabricated locally for any capacity required by investors. There is a ready market in Europe, America and Middle East.
- LEATHER PRODUCTS EXPORTATION
Presently the world footwear and leather products sector is moving from high-cost industrialized countries to developing countries and many developing countries have strong potentials in this sector regarding raw material and human resources, but have mainly remained suppliers of raw and semi-finished products.
The raw materials for leather and its products are mainly from livestock, and Nigeria is endowed with the third largest livestock population in Africa. Raw materials availability has been acknowledged as a basic comparative advantage towards the export of leather and leather products.
- PALM KERNEL CAKE EXPORTATION
Palm kernel cake (PKC) as a by-product in the milling of palm kernel oil. Palm kernel cake is considered a medium grade protein in feed, containing 14.6% to 16.0% crude protein, useful for fattening cattle either as a single feed, with only minerals and vitamins supplementation or mixed with other feedstuff.
It has also become the main ingredient in daily cattle ration. Palm kernel cake is commonly exported, mainly to Europe. It is delivered in bulk via vessel or pack in bags for easier handling and distribution. Lately, it is also used as Biomass fuel in Europe especially united kingdom to provide heat and energy. The cake is demanded by feed millers and by exporters.
- GUM ARABIC EXPORTATION
Gum Arabic is produced by Acacia trees and occurs within the Sahel Ecological zone of Nigeria. We are currently the third largest exporter of Gum Arabic in Africa, after Sudan and Chad. Its annual exports are estimated at 5,000 metric tons. The highest quality of Gum Arabic—Grade 1—is used in a wide variety of food, beverage, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical products, making the market for this grade of gum quite robust.
- CASHEW NUT EXPORTATION
Cashews are found wild. Actual production figure is not available, but is estimated to be around 50,000 tons annually. Over 80 per cent of it is exported raw and unprocessed to India, Vietnam and Brazil, where they are processed into kernels and sold for higher value in Europe and North-America.
In recent times, world market price of kernels has stabilized at $1.7 per pound for the benchmark grade – W320. This consumer-friendly price is likely to sustain continued demand for the product, even as new low cost suppliers enter the international market. One cashew tree produces between 200 and 300 cashew nuts in a year.
- CHARCOAL EXPORTATION
The cry for alternative energy source has put CHARCOAL in the forefront in the global market. A large market exists in EU, USA and ASIA with prices ranging from $700 to $800 per ton, with about 40% return on Investment.
- GALLSTONE EXPORTATION
Gallstone is clay-like solid substance found in the gallbladder of a matured cow or oxen. It is about the size of a peanut and can be as big as a pigeon egg. At times, they could be as big as ordinary eggs and can weigh between 15 and 18 grammes.
They are collected by pharmaceutical companies abroad for medical purposes. A good quality gallstone should be dried upon collection of some quantity say 100g, you can then parcel them and send to buyers abroad who then pay with hard currency immediately the parcel is received. Gallstone has a well-established market in Asia and America. The market is guaranteed and can take up as much quantity as supplied without any adverse effect on the price.
- CRUDE OIL IMPORT AND EXPORT
Every nation of the world needs energy and fuel to power their economy and not all these countries have in excess these fuel. You can deal in the exporting and importing of crude oil from one country to another. It is important to note that it is for the big dogs as it involves large cost of startup but a very profitable business in the long run.
- SESAME SEED EXPORT
Sesame seeds (sesamum indicum) belong to the plant family Pedaliaceae. It is an important oilseed crop believed to have originated from tropical Africa. 25% of world sesame seed hecterage is planted in Africa and Nigeria is one of the major producers of sesame seed in Africa. The commodity ranks second to cocoa in terms of volume of export and foreign exchange earnings. Global production in 2005 was put at 2.4 million metric tonnes with China and India as leading producers.
Honey is primarily composed of fructose, glucose and water. It also contains other sugars as well trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. Honey is manufactured in one of the world’s most efficient factories, the beehive. Honey is currently priced between US$ 10.00 AND US$12.00 per kilogram at international market.
- YAM EXPORTATION FROM NIGERIA
World production of yam is 51.4 million tonnes per year out of which Nigeria accounts for an average of 36.7 million tonnes, Ghana for 3.6 million tonnes and Cote d’Ivoire for 4.8 million tonnes. There are no specific standards for yam export, but intending exporters must seek information on the quality and phytosanitary regulations of the importing country as well as the product specifications required by the importer.
- DROP SHIPPING
Drop shipping allows business owners to sell products and ship them directly to their customers without having to maintain an inventory. Drop shippers handle all packaging and shipping concerns, allowing the business owners who use their services to focus on getting the products in front of potential customers. Bad business practices from some business owners have soured the idea of drop shipping for others, but it is still possible to run a reputable business using drop shipping.
- SPARE PART IMPORTATION
Just like used cars, you can go into the importation of either used or new spare parts. Since it is very hard to return cars to factory especially from Africa, importation of the spare part is a goldmine if you have the knowledge and can import in large quantities.
- USED CLOTH IMPORTATION
Even though it might sound like a dirty business, there is a ready market for used cloth in Africa and other third world economies. You can specialize in the importation of this product to these places where it is in high demand.
Nigeria is one of the tropical countries endowed with rich shrimp resources. With rich organic deposit arising from runoff, the Niger Delta region is the heartland of shrimp and oil production in Nigeria; having a production capacity of 12,000 metric tons (MT) per year. The major markets for the Nigerian shrimp in Europe are Belgium, Portugal, Spain, France and the USA. All are usually packaged in 2.2-kg packets into master cartons. So this is a business you can go into and succeed.
- POULTRY EXPORTATION
The term poultry is generally used to refer all the domestic birds kept egg or meat purposes. Neighboring West East and Northern Africa Countries also depend on poultry eggs from Nigeria, as the weather for the production of poultry eggs is highly conducive in Nigeria compared to these neighboring countries.
Irrespective of the abundant animal feeds, which are readily available, there is also the export potential, which has not been tapped fully. For any person or corporate bodies looking for a project that will generate income on a daily basis, poultry egg production is one of such project.
- CHILI PEPPER EXPORTATION
Nigeria is known to be one of the major producers of pepper in the world. The implication of this is that we have the good weather that can readily support the growth and production of pepper in Nigeria. There are hundreds of different types of chili peppers that vary in size, shape, color, flavor and hotness.
This fleshy berry features many seeds inside a potent package that can range from less than one inch to six inches in length, and approximately one-half to one inch in diameter. Chili peppers are usually red or green in color.
- CARGO TRACKING
As an importer and exporter, there is always a risk involved in the business especially when you do not have the knowledge of the location of your goods on sea. But this risk can be reduced with cargo tracking firms which you can employ their service in tracking and updating you in real time the location of your goods. The safety and timely arrival of your cargo is paramount.
But keeping track of where it is and whether its journey is going as planned can be hard without the right tools. Cargo tracking solutions is about monitoring cargo while it’s moving so you can make sure it’s where it needs to be when it needs to be there. Moreover, you’ll be able to receive real-time notifications about departures, arrivals and checkpoint clearances so you can document you cargo’s journey easily and efficiently.
It’s the smart way to: monitor and document the temperature of perishable cargo while it’s in transit, document where your goods were and when they reached their destination, locate and recover lost or stolen goods quickly. This business helps you improve the productivity and efficiency of importers and exporters operation because they can organize the rest of their logistics around the predicted arrival of their cargo.
- PALM KERNEL OIL EXPORTATION BUSINESS
Palm kernel oil (PKO) is extracted from the kernel of palm. It should not be confuse with palm oil, which is obtained from the pulp of fruit of the palm. Palm kernel oil has a light yellow color and it has a milder flavor than palm oil. It is often used in the manufacture of various cosmetic, confectionery and pharmaceutical industries.
Palm Kernel Oil Crushing is a viable investment because raw materials can be sourced at ease, the production technology is simple and feasible, and the market for end products are automatic. You can therefore go into the business of exporting PKO to Europe and Asian markets.
The sea is not the only means through which cargos can be brought in, the air can also be utilized in transporting containers. In 2014, airlines transported 51.3 million metric tons of goods, representing more than 35% of global trade by value but less than 1% of world trade by volume. With the right tools and equipment even though very costly, you can start an air cargo business by helping businessmen transport their goods faster and in a safer way.
If you have the ability to sell, and an air of diplomacy, the import/export business might be right for you. All you need is the desire and determination to make it work.
As you progress in the business, many factors become obvious and easy to handle. Once you get the business underway, the commission for setting up sales is very profitable. And after you establish and maintain a number of exclusive accounts, you’ll find the time you spend is highly rewarded with money.