How to Start an Import and Export Company in 2024?

The global economy works on the rule of interconnectivity and trade. Starting an import and export company is one of the oldest and most profitable business ideas. Entrepreneurs can make use of this vibrant economic opportunity to establish a dynamic business that is profitable and sustainable. 

However, this business requires careful planning and diligence at every step to ensure success. Without strategic planning and intelligent execution, your business may not turn out to be as desired. 

This extensive guide will discuss all the major aspects of an import-export business. Starting from the basics to the deep complexities of this business, we’ll shed light on every angle of this business to ensure a successful business venture.

Let’s start.  

What Is an Import and Export Business?

Import and Export
Source: pixabay

First things first. You have to decided if you need to start a company that focuses on imports or is based on exports. You can also start both if you want. But that would take much of your time, effort, and resources to materialize any time soon. 

If you have come this far thinking of starting an import and export company, you must have the basic idea behind this business.  

The import business relies on sourcing products from another country. The target country is where you want to sell those products. It can be the country where you are based. It can also be another country where you want to introduce those imported products. 

The export business is based on selling or exporting products from one country to another. The basic idea will also remain the same here. You may choose to export products from your own country or select another country for this purpose. 

Let’s get into more detail on how these businesses operate and what you need to do to secure your chances of success. 

Types of Import and Export Company

Before going deep into the dynamics of an import and export company, let’s find out the branches of this business. This will help you identify and relate to the business type you want to start. 

Here are the most prevalent types of import and export companies: 

Trading Companies

A trading company takes products from one place and sells them to the other. A trading company facilitates international buyers and sellers. They fulfill the demands of a buyer by arranging the products from some other country per the buyer’s preferences. 

So, the fundamental idea behind this trade is to mediate between the demand and supply markets. The other factor is the pricing and profitability. You can just source the required products at cheaper prices from one country and sell them to another country at higher prices. 

Trading companies know how to import, export, and sell them to the right audience. Such companies are usually involved in B2B transactions. So, an international trading company is a pertinent example of an import and export company, as it involves both ends of the business dynamics. A good example can be a trading company that ships from China to the USA market. 

Trading Company
Source: pixabay

Export Management Companies (EMCs)

If an OEM has manufactured big batches of its product lines, it will search for the right and profitable markets to sell those products. If the market is across the border, it would involve international trade. An export management company helps such manufacturers export their products to other global markets. They are also called Manufacturer’s Export Agents (MEAs).

Let’s say there is a new manufacturer in China. It manufactures high-quality goods and doesn’t know where to sell them. This is the time for an Export Management Company to jump in. It can help manufacturers export their products to thriving US, European, and other markets. 

Many things must be decided before an Export Management Company and the manufacturer can be in a contract. The manufacturer can set the minimum profit margin per product. An EMC company eventually sells those products after ensuring their profit margins. That’s how this kind of business thrives and remains profitable for both parties. 

Freight Forwarding Companies

Freight forwarding companies or freight forwarders facilitate shipping goods from the source country to the destination country. They may not be involved with buying and selling the products. They only arrange the logistics and transportation part. 

Freight forwarding is an integral aspect of an import and export company. So, this type of business also comes under the ambit of international trade. Without their facilitation, the overall process of international trade may become difficult, lengthy, and time-consuming. 

These businesses also help arrange all the legal and formal documentation for both parties. They also help in customs clearance of the goods they are handling. These businesses are experts in such matters. Hence, it is convenient for the import and export companies to hire their services. 

Source: pixabay

Import and Export Business Feasibility

After you have finalized the type of import and export company you want to start, the next step is to create a feasibility report of your import and export business. Here are some factors that you need to consider:

Demand Analysis

First, you need to conduct detailed market research for your business. You must understand both markets. If you want to import products from China, you must be sure about their demand in the target country. 

If you start your business without doing proper research, you may end up piling the stock in your warehouse without being able to sell them. That’s why it is very important to validate the demand of the selected goods in your target market. 

A good tool in this regard is Google Trends. The filters on this tool help you analyze the demand patterns at a specific place in the given timeline. Be careful in selecting seasonal items, as their demand is limited to a particular period. 

Supply Analysis

After ensuring that your selected products have a good demand in the target market, the next step is to check if those products are conveniently available in the source country. 

You have to be certain that there are enough reliable suppliers in the source country so you can easily meet the demands. Here is the point when you may consider working with a product sourcing agent

You must ensure you get an uninterrupted supply of goods throughout the year. Just to be safe, you can keep some suppliers on your list for backup so that you can utilize them in case of unusual circumstances.


Google Trends

Pricing Strategy

Pricing is one of the most crucial aspects of any business. You need to work carefully about the difference in the pricing of products in the source and destination countries. 

As a general rule of thumb, you would be interested in the products that offer high differences in pricing. This will ensure your profitability. 

If you want to know the costs, you can visit Chinese wholesale websites. Many online marketplaces like Alibaba, DHgate, and Global Sources offer competitive product pricing. 


Logistics and Supply Chain

After settling the matters related to the product and supplier selection, the next step is to ensure your logistics. Different means of transportation may be used while transporting goods from the source country to the final destination. 

The most common means of transportation in international trade is shipping containers. You would have to use proper packaging to place the items inside the containers. Depending on the quantity of products, you can choose between FCL and LCL delivery to be cost-effective. 

In most cases, you mutually agree by selecting the most suitable shipping Incoterms. Incoterms like Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) and Free On Board (FOB) help clarify a buyer’s and supplier’s responsibilities.

Shipping Container
Source: pixabay

Note: If you want to avoid getting involved in logistics, you can ask your supplier or a sourcing agent to do this on your behalf. 

Wholesale Vs. Retail Business

You must also be clear about the type of import and export company you want to start. Wholesale and retail are the most prevalent business models around the world. 

If you want to start a bigger import and export company, you can select the wholesale business model. It is relatively more convenient and a long-term business compared to retail companies. 

So, you need to decide if you want to be a part of mass import and export supplies (B2B) or a limited number of different products for consumers (B2C). This step usually involves your interest and commitment to your company. So, choose the type that suits your priorities.

Branded Vs. General Business

Another important aspect of an import and export company is to define whether your company will sell general items or customized products. Sourcing hubs like the Yiwu market in China and other places are full of suppliers offering customized products. 

Suppliers in China and other countries are usually aware of this strategy. It is referred to as “private label manufacturing.” This is the type of manufacturing that can customize your products. They can put your company’s logo on their products. 

But to ensure the right pricing for the customized products, you must contact the direct manufacturers. If you need to gain expertise in looking for the right supplier, you can ask a reliable sourcing agent to assist you. 

Requirements to Start an Import and Export Company

To start an import and export company, you must go through all the procedural steps. This will help you and your business stay out of trouble. 

Here are a few common requirements to start a company that relies on import and export functions: 

Company Registration

Source: pixabay

Firstly, you need to define your business structure. You need to indicate if your business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. Then, you need to complete the documentation to apply for your company’s registration in the legal departments of your country. 

Business License

The next step is to get a business license for your newly established company. This license will save you from any kind of trouble with the legal sections of your country. You must have all the documentation and business permits ready with you. 

Import and Export Regulations

You must remain updated with all the government policies and announcements regarding import and export businesses. You must ensure that both countries’ government policies favor your business. If there is any unwanted change, you must have a contingency plan to overcome that situation. 

Taxes and Customs Duties

Custom duties and taxes are any country’s main determinants of import and export feasibilities. Export-friendly policies and taxes have made China one of the largest exporters. That’s why it has become one of the most desired countries to source products. 

Compliance Certificates

Price and quality are not the only factors required to export the products in any market. Depending on the product type, some international markets may require a certificate of conformance along with the product. These certificates ensure that the products comply with the international safety standards. 

Risk Mitigation Strategies for an Import and Export Company

A typical successful import and export company formulates strategies to mitigate risks that may hinder their operations. 

Let’s discuss some of the most common risk mitigation strategies for an import and export company. 

Source: pixabay

Diversify Source Markets and Suppliers 

A good businessman does not put all the eggs in one basket. That’s because if you lose that basket, you lose everything. There may be situations where you have to face multiple challenges with your supplier. 

You must have suppliers in your backup to meet challenges that arise in peak demands for the timely arrangement of seasonal products. Import and export companies that liaise with product sourcing agents have already mitigated such issues because sourcing agents have a pool of suppliers in their database. 

Long-Term Agreements

Established import and export companies develop long-term relationships with their suppliers. These long-term agreements have a significant impact on the stability of their businesses. Suppliers know the preferences of their buyers and act accordingly to save time for both parties. 

Working with newer suppliers is usually difficult, and it takes time to understand each other. Therefore, you should have long-term agreements with your suppliers to overcome challenges. 

Source: pixabay

Transparent Supply Chain

A smooth supply chain is the backbone of every import and export company. If you can’t deliver the products as promised, you will start losing your customers. That’s why you must ensure a reliable and transparent supply chain system. 

You should be able to share the tracking information with your clients to earn their trust. This induces confidence among your customers because they can track their products directly with a tracking number. 

Insurance Coverage

Another wise step to mitigate the risks for your import and export company is to get your business and goods insured. Insurance guarantees to keep your business covered in case of losses. 

In addition to your company, you can also get insurance for your shipments. You can get your shipments insured separately or use the CIF Incoterm with your supplier. Your goods will be covered for the costs, insurance, and freight in that case. 

The Role of a Sourcing Agent in an Import and Export Company

A sourcing agent or a company may have a pivotal role in establishing an import and export company. Even if you have the knowledge and experience about all the import and export processes, you would still want to hire a sourcing agent. This can save time and effort you had to put in yourself by compromising some other aspect of your business. 

Let’s have a brief overview of the services that a sourcing agent can offer to an import and export company: 

Product Sourcing

A professional product sourcing agent will help you find the right products for your business from the right supplier. You just need to share your requirements with an agent in detail. The agent will take care of all the other steps in sourcing those products. 

A sourcing company will develop relevant options based on your demands and preferences. You can select the most suitable option that meets your requirements. For example, you can ask an agent to source products from huge Chinese markets like Guangzhou

Supplier Management

A good sourcing agent is the eyes and ears of your import and export company in the source country. You can ask the sourcing agent to keep the supplier database ready with them so you can turn to other supplies in case of emergencies. 

Sourcing companies act as the most feasible intermediaries between you and the local suppliers. They also deliver your messages and instructions to the suppliers by overcoming the communication gaps. 

Packaging and Labeling

Sourcing agents also pack and organize your goods in a way that makes them safe during transit. Additionally, the labeling makes it easy for you to sort and handle them after receiving. You can ask your agent to use the best packaging for your items to keep them protected. 

You can also tell them to use the latest technologies in the labeling. For example, you can ask them to use the scannable labeling tags on the packaging so that it is easier for you to keep them in your warehouse.

Pakaging and Labeling
Source: pexels

Shipping and Transportation

A sourcing agent can be highly useful in arranging for shipping and transportation. Sourcing agents are well experienced in choosing international freight forwarding services. They can help you in terms of selecting the right Incoterms as well.

Some established sourcing companies have their warehouses in different parts of the world. This means they can help store your goods at their warehouses until you tell them to dispatch them to their final destinations. 

Documentation and Customs Clearance

Sourcing companies also help you arrange all the documents you would require in the process of imports and exports. You would need documents like invoices, packing lists, certificates of conformance, bills of lading, and certificates of origin. 

You may have to produce these documents for customs clearance of your goods in the destination country. Sourcing agents will help you arrange all these documents, permits, and licenses. 

Quality Control

The quality of the products is a huge point of concern, especially for importers. They want to be sure that the products they are importing are of the same quality they wish to sell in their target markets. Otherwise, they may face rejection from the regulatory departments or their customers. 

A sourcing agent can monitor the quality of the products at different stages until the products are shipped to the final destination. They can monitor the quality right from the production. They can also check for the quality of the products even at the time when the products are being loaded onto the vessel for shipping.

Quality Inspection
Source: pexels

FAQs about Import and Export Company

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about starting an import and export company. 

What Type of Goods can I Import and Export?

You can import and export a large variety of goods. They may include textiles, electronic items, industrial machinery, and parts. But you must be sure of the taxes and regulations for the items in the source and destination countries before selecting them. 

What Roles Do Incoterms Play in International Import and Export? 

Shipping Incoterms Play pivotal roles in international trade. They help clarify the roles, responsibilities, and costs of a mutual contract between the buyers and suppliers. This reduces confusion among both parties. 

What Are the Future Prospects of Import and Export Companies? 

International trade has been going through automation and digitalization. The future prospects include more aggressive e-commerce transactions and more focus on sustainability and ethical product sourcing. 


Starting an import and export company may sound like a lucrative and exciting business idea. However, developing a smooth system of imports and exports requires much effort and accuracy. You must be vigilant at every step to avoid any mistake that may hinder your chances of success. 

That’s why we have discussed all the significant steps and types of import and export businesses in this article. We have also discussed tips that can favor your business and reduce costs and overall fatigue to execute this business. 

If you are about to start this business, refer to this article to ensure that you are on the right track. You can always fill out our simple form if you want expert assistance. Our veteran sourcing expert will guide you through every step. 

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Start a profitable import and export company in 2024 by learning the useful tips shared in this detailed guide. 

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