The name of this game is “Importing”. The more you have traveled and made contact with tea growers, the stronger your business will be.
Note: Here we talk about tea importing, but in truth, importing any specialized product will reach the same goals. (Think “cheese” or “handwoven baskets”.)
Here’s The Basic Scoop on Importing:
Income potential: Moderate to high
Computer skills needed: Can be done locally in some areas, but computer skills will broaden the market
Online business? In larger metro area, your online presence may be modest; in more rural areas, will need a strong online presence
Part time/ Full time Both
Growth potential Very good
Skills needed: Familiarity with importing
Start Up Costs: Moderate. Will need initial inventory and packaging materials
Overall rating: B
The Upside of the Importing Business
For someone with familiarity with tea producing countries, this is a great business. Should you live near embassies or trade council centers, those officers would be glad to help you get started. They will lead you through the paperwork of importing, and will even connect you with tea growers in their country.
There is a strong growth curve in natural and organic products, including those for tea (and coffee). Being able to provide that to local restaurants, hotels, and online customers could be quite a good business. Also consider coffee or exotic spices – there is a huge market just waiting for you!
The Challenges of the Importing Business
You will need some knowledge of the import cycle. Most embassies will help you get started. There are even some formal courses you might take to ease the process.
Don’t expect huge profits the first year. First lay the groundwork — learn importing, establish your suppliers, make contact and initial sales with customers. By the second year your bank account should be growing nicely.
Make sure you’ve got the right storage space and facility for your product. Storing neckties is a whole easier than storing cheese.
Marketing imported products is a unique niche. Those in urban areas are more likely to find a ready market than those in truly rural areas. Note, however, that those in rural areas can still market very successful via the internet.
The Internet And Your Import Business
How much, or how little, you will rely on the internet is very dependent on how close your customers are, and how well you know your suppliers.
Business owners in rural areas will always benefit from a strong online marketing program. And those in urban areas can expand their business exponentially by marketing online.
And what about your potential suppliers? The simple fact that you want to sell their product will not necessarily create a relationship with them. Imagine you were a grower of fine lavender plants. Your supply, while large, is limited. Two potential representatives approach you. One writes you an email. The other writes the email, then links to a website with an outline of products and clients presently represented, a nice site for clients to place orders 24 hours a day. If the website is professional, well … which representative would you choose?
It is more than persuading vendors to sell to you. Any time you can present a very professional face, the better your odds of getting good payment terms, and all that extra assistance that comes from those who are impressed with your business.
So go on … impress them. Even if you don’t need a full website, consider creating one anyway. It could pay off big time.
Choosing Your Product For Importing
Not surprisingly, look at products you know well. Personally, I love tea. I go miles out of my way to visit a coffee house that serves a Lover’s Blend Tea that is so aromatic. You may choose a different type of product entirely, perhaps clothing, or raw materials.
If it is something you can describe, it can be imported.
Consider too the option of “Free Trade” products. Non-GMO agricultural products are increasingly in demand, as are “organic” items of all kinds. “Hand crafted” items will always sell well.
Whatever you choose, learn everything you can learn about it. Be ready to answer every question, and to provide promotional material to spotlight the distinctive products that you represent.
Another option is to choose a country to represent, and bring in a number of products from that country. There are many importers from Mexico, Greece, Russia, and every other country who are hugely successful. Your language skills and cultural background will open many doors.
There are so many splendid options that you will have a hard time choosing.
Importing is a “real” business, one that everyone can understand. Your creativity will bring distinction to your business like none other.
(And if you do opt to import tea, do let me know!)