One of my first profitable businesses I started — and still run today — is an importing company.

I started my journey with no proper direction plumping for any product which I felt could turn a ‘quick profit’. I initially suffered from this lack of direction partly down the fact there wasn’t the deluge of freely available information which now exists on the web.

Today I sell my products under my own brand name on eBay and Amazon.

With the rise of Alibaba and ease at which anybody can launch an online store now is the time to dip your toes into the world of importing. This multi part guide will guide you through the entire process from product identification to shipping your first order!

Kicking Misconceptions Into Touch

  • Do I need a load of money to get started? — NO
  • Do I need to speak Mandarin? — NO
  • Harry, can you find me the Apple factory so I can sell iPhones and become crazy rich? — NO*

*If I got a dollar for every time I’ve either been asked or seen that question! I’d be a rich man!

Getting Started

Lets get cultural

The first thing to accept from the off is that doing business in Asia is a very different proposition from what we’re accustomed to in the West. If you dive in without doing some research then your chances of getting burn’t increase dramatically. Don’t be put off though there’s money to be made and fortunes to be had.

In terms of what profile your product should follow there is no hard and fast rule. However if I had my time again I would stick to the below:

Nothing too complex — Choose a product which isn’t too technical (think hoverboards) and simple to manufacture. I’d personally avoid anything which is either put on the body (i.e cosmetics) or in it (i.e foodstuffs). China has a questionable safety record in this regard!

  • Small and light — Shipping will eat your profit margins at both ends! Rubber Bumper plates are a great example. Very cheap to buy at just $1–2 per KG but warehousing and fulfillment costs to your customers is going to dwindle your margin.
  • Keep it cheap — High end items provide two challenges. Firstly It’s capital intensive to start up. Secondly when you start venturing into products which cost $100+ customer expectation will rise. This means you may spend more time on quality control (very tough!) rather than growing your business. When starting out top tip: keep it cheap — keep it simple. This isn’t to say that there’s not money to made selling high ticket items. It’s just not the best place to start.
  • Avoid ‘brand name’ niches — Products which have a clear leader and/or monopoly are best avoided. Focus on a niche where you can make a break though. You’re not going to dethrone a multi national with a million dollar ad budget.
  • Avoid counterfeits — Yes there’s money to be made — yes you’ll be caught! Only build a business on good standing.

That’s the end of part one! Up next How to find your first product…..