If you own a small or medium-sized business, or if you’re thinking about having one, it is likely that you have to deal with shipping goods in one way or another. It is also likely that shipping is the most frustrating part of running a business: the process is complicated, often out of your control, and you will never be prepared enough for all the surprises it may bring along the way.
In the following weeks, we will share with you a series of blog posts providing you fundamentals about shipping and importing. We don’t need years in the industry to figure out how you can ship things; we will never know enough or prepare enough anyway. The moment is now. So - if you are starting a new business and you want to import goods, or if you already have one but you have yet figured out the best way to move your goods, or if you simply want to know another perspective, read on, share your thoughts – and ship easy!
1. Decide What to Import / Ship
2. Important Things to Consider: Rules, Regulations and More
3. Sourcing Your Suppliers Abroad and Developing a Sales Contract
4. Arrange Your Payment
5. Customs Requirements & The Entry Process
6. Exceptions: When Something Goes Wrong
And other topics we find to be helpful for you. If you want an answer to a particular question, feel free to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org; we’d be happy to share our opinion.
Import 101 - Chapter 1/7: Decide What To Import
There are two important qualities we need to have in order to be successful – almost in everything: be passionate, and be practical. It is the same when you want to answer the question: “What should I import?” It should be something you are passionate about; and once you can conclude this is what excites you to start a small business – you should think whether it is practical to do so.
When choosing a product, consider these questions:
Is it something you’re enthusiastic about? If you are not, it will be hard to convince people to buy this product from you. You will spend so much time with the product: from the day it was only your idea, until it was visualized, sampled, then manufactured; you will package it, ship it to your shop, you will see it all day, talk about it with your colleagues, sell it to your customers; you will think about it all day – and probably you will dream about it at night – so it’d rather be something that makes you feel excited.
Are you knowledgeable about it? Knowledge and enthusiasm usually go together. You like something – that makes you learn more about it. The more you know about it, the more you like it. Yet, it requires hard work to be knowledgeable about something: it takes time and effort to read, understand, experience, sometimes to create it (and you will often fail many times before you succeed).
Is it practical to import this product? “Practical” here is a combination of many things: Is the product already available in the market you’re planning to sell? Will you yourself buy this product? Will you recommend this product to your friends? (If not, why would you import it?) Where can you source this product and the cost to source it? How difficult and complicated is it to source the product? What is its potential? What is the demand for it in a year, two years and further?
It is important to note that each country may have its own restrictions for certain types of merchandise, which usually fall under (but are not limited to) food, chemicals, livestock and animals, agriculture, etc. Some goods will even need foreign government visas in order to enter the US. These export visas are usually auctioned and in order to win the allocation, an exporter usually needs to plan ahead, participate in the auction months or even a year in advance; and the competition for such allocation is usually high. It is strongly recommended to check if your exporter has the necessary government visas for the goods he plans to supply you.
Speaking of volume, the quantity of goods you plan to import will contribute to which payment methods, procedures, what kind of commitment would be necessary. Small quantities can be imported under purchase orders (PO) and purchase order acceptance. Larger amounts may require more formal procedures, special shipping, packing, more parties to be involved in the importation process.
International trade involves many economic, cultural, environmental, legal or political factors that you need to carefully consider before deciding to import anything. We will discuss more about this in the coming posts.