Home Business Center Logo

How to Start an Import-Export Business 1-2-3


First things first: decide whether you want to be an importer or an exporter and then find out if you need a license.

According to TradePort.org, the US federal government does not require a company to have a license or permit to engage in the import/export business. However, certain products do require special licensing, and you want to contact your state or local government office about state and local requirements and permits that apply.

Starting an Exporting Business:

If you are looking at getting into the export business, the steps you need to take to get started include:

  • Review export regulations.
  • Figure out your product's export potential and identifying foreign markets to which you can export.
  • Look at your options and set up an overseas distribution system.
  • Learn about export prices, payment terms and methods.
  • Understand the shipping and documentation procedures that will apply to your business.

Starting an Importing Business:

You can import products to sell yourself or to re-sell to retailers. Start by finding out which items carry import restrictions. There are strict laws and regulations pertaining to importing products and you need to know what these are in order to avoid costly penalty fees.

The CBP (Customs and Border Protection) provides some helpful information on business requirements. The United States International Trade Commission has a tariff database on its website where it lists the most current tariffs on specific products. The US Department of Agriculture has an import checklist in regards to policies and regulations pertaining to food items that are imported.

If you want to start an importing business, you may want to consider hiring a customs broker. A customs broker prepares the documentation needed to import goods, therefore making the process easier for you.

Legal Issues and Finding Business Partners:

international export

Whether you choose to work in import or export, you will need to pick a business name that makes it easy for customers to identify you. You will then want to register your business with state and local authorities.

To find trustworthy businesses that you can partner with in other countries, you can use the International Company Profile Program, run by the US Department of Commerce.

Building a Website the Easy Way:

Set up a business website, as this will help you communicate information about your company worldwide very easily and effectively. You can hire a web designer to build a basic site for you for about $500 (read more), or you can do the work yourself. If you decide to make your site yourself, use a website builder with templates that makes the process much faster and easier.

Getting Started Step-by-Step:

Get a look inside the import-export industry with expert Timothy Smith. He has put together a complete business guide that shows you exactly how to get started and succeed in the import-export business, using insider tips.

Smith's guide saves you weeks of research. In this one guide, you get answers to important international trade questions, valuable import-export resource information and solutions to make starting your import-export business much easier.

How to Start an Import-Export Business

Import-Export Business Resources

Import-Export Organizations

  • FITA.org
  • American Importers Association (www.americanimporters.org)

 Get Started

2014 Home Business Start-up Checklist!

Home Business Start-up ChecklistGet the complete checklist free! Follow step-by-step ...from choosing your niche to bringing in customers.

Email address:

First name:

Topics you want to learn about:

We don't spam, we won't sell your email
and we don't bite!