How to start an eCommerce site with imports?

Where do I start? How do I find places to buy from abroad? I want to focus on artsy things.


PROVE THE ASSUMPTION: Start with a dropshipper's existing products to figure out what sells best before you spend money on manufacturing and warehousing. Amazon is perfect for this - they will pay you 4%-10% to promote 253,000,000 products ( - you can sign up at Alternately, get very small amounts of the product (maybe even just buy some from a competitor) and try selling them on ebay and amazon. Nothing hurts more than having $50,000 of imported product gathering dust in your fulfillment warehouse while listening to a voicemail from a debt collector.
There are several options here. Many people prefer Warning - if you use Alibaba, you are stepping into a tank of pirahnas. There are more scam "manufacturers" on Alibaba than real ones. Use Escrow or AliSecure Pay if you buy. If the supplier says they only take T/T, Western Union, Moneygram - just say no! I prefer American Made when possible. If you're like me, try Ariba's Discovery Service - - which will allow you to find suppliers with a physical presence in the USA. Note: Many things can be made on demand (someone purchases, one gets made and shipped) instead of in 500+ manufacturing runs. Start there if you can - Books on, Clothes on, Playing Cards on, etc - to test out your exact product.
This is an entire topic in itself. One of the fastest ways I know for newbies to start in e-commerce is with a store. Other options include and If you can stand to use the templates they provide instead of trying to customize them, you'll save yourself a lot of hassle and expense - customization usually looks terrible unless a designer/coder was hired to do the work. If you do customize, find someone on or
Figure out where your competition is advertising. Are they getting free, "organic" SEO results on Google? Using social media to drive billions of dollars of sales? (NOTE: That was a joke - don't count on social media as the nucleus of your marketing campaign. Please!) Are they paying for Google ads ("PPC"), buying email lists, using strategic partnerships for promotion, relying on shopping portals, using banner advertising, or something else entirely? There's probably a good reason - figure out what it will take to play in those waters. At the same time, try to find a small enough niche that you can win in it.
Be careful about artsy things. If someone is attracted to something artistic, it's usually because there is a story behind the art for them, or because it's cheap. If you're going to try to sell artistic things, you may want to consider doing some serious research first about who has been successful in that area. Look at to see handmade artsy items (very cool).
Worth checking out as you start your journey:,,,
If you need help, reach out for a 15 minute call and we'll discuss a go-to-market strategy specific to your goals.

Answered 10 years ago

Please provide a bit more detail. The experts on this site are very generous with time and sharing advice, but we are not going to develop an entire business plan for you.

Answered 10 years ago

One of the best ways to do "artsy" that is, not main stream found on Amazon or some such is to travel. Go travel and don't go to the tourist typical spots, but go to various out of the way places. Ask locals to show you their wares or some "traditional" wares. Then you need to work out with them how you will buy and how you will ship. Not very easy, lots of work, but hay, if you want a niche that's not already taken, then that's what's needs to be done.

Answered 10 years ago

How artsy? Artesenias? In any case, you might follow the model. Secondly, you have to make sure the market is in place. You can lose a lot of money on a hobby.
Don't stop taking massive action.
Best of Luck,
Michael T. Irvin
My books are available exclusively through Amazon Books. Check out my book "Copywriting Blackbook of Secrets"
Copywriting, Startups, Internet Entrepreneur, Online Marketing, Making Money

Answered 10 years ago


You may want to consider narrowing your focus and asking more specific questions. What sort of customers are you looking to serve? What problems or needs are you solving for them?

Once you focus there a bit, you'll probably want to start by looking for local importers who specialise in the type of products you're looking to sell. Your volumes probably won't be high enough to source directly at first without risking carrying loads of unsold inventory. This has the added benefit of eliminating all the trade / import paperwork, as they sort it themselves.

Good luck!


Answered 10 years ago

I have over 5 years of experience executing e-commerce start-ups. My friend, I will try to help you frame a vision for your challenge, though your questions are somewhat reverse ordered in hierarchy of importance.
You have vaguely defined your area of interest as "artsy". You need to find a niche within the "artsy" ecosystem or industry where you can offer real value. First of all, you need to know who the present dominant players in the artsy market are, their strengths and wekaness( what are the areas where they are satisfying customers and what are those areas where they are not doing well). You might want to pitch your tent at their weak points and those weak areas usually make them unresponsive to "small orders" or "common" consumers. If you can do this successfully, then you can begin your Product Conceptualization. You need to develop your product or service along these areas, e.g. better distribution network, more affordable logistics, etc.
The second question borders around SOURCING. There are myriads of ways to achieve this in an age of internet. You can source via Alibaba, eBay, etc. Your guiding principle in sourcing should be ARBITRAGE. What source would offer you a price advantage to compete locally? For instance, if an artifact would cost less to import from China, why would you source for it in America?
When you have sorted those two critical factors of Product/Service and Sourcing, then you begin considering the e-Commerce PLATFORM to use. I believe you want to be in business not for the fun of it but for some benefits or profits, then you might consider starting off on more affordable platforms like or eBay where your setup costs will be very low. Create you profile there, advertise your products and when you have secured sufficient "follower-ship" , then you can seek a web portal(based on your business profitability) to showcase your business. Now , you can look to Wordpress + its ecommerce plugins and get a developer to setup your ecommerce site.
Let TECHNOLOGY enable business and not the other way round. Always have your BUSINESS STRATEGY in place before seeking TECHNOLOGY PLATFORMS to fulfil it. Understand the VALUE CHAIN in your particular "artsy" industry and then explore the "technology interfaces" to help you connect among the various "value" players from "upstream" to "downstream".
You can call me for more clarifications.

Answered 10 years ago

Great question. I have started from scratch an import eCommerce business from $0 to 6-figures annually and understand why you would be interested in this opportunity!

There are many steps in between, but here are some high level points that I think will help you have a greater understanding. The easiest way to start an ecommerce/import business is to import products from Alibaba and sell on Amazon FBA. This business model will allow you to focus most of your time on deciding what to sell and marketing instead of customer service and order fulfillment.

The first thing you need to do is to start with a goal. The amount of capital you are willing to invest upfront will determine the trajectory of your business. At a baseline, you need at least $1k for initial start up fixed costs and purchasing inventory.

Next, decide what you want to sell. Go to or and search for suppliers/products you wish to sell. Talk with suppliers to get information on price per unit, MOQ, and lead times.

Once you have purchased an order and have your product, use Amazon FBA. Amazon FBA is Amazon's fulfillment network. They have fulfillment centers all over the country which allow them to fulfill their products to customers in two days. When Amazon receives your products and you have a properly filled out product listing, customers are able to purchase your product. When the item is purchased, Amazon associates pick, pack and ship the product for you. They also handle customer service inquiries.

This is a basic business model that handles sourcing, fulfillment, and customer service. If you have any questions regarding this, please feel free to reach out.


Answered 9 years ago

I will give you overview about the procedures you need to follow in import-export business:

For importers:
In shortly, there steps you need to take

1.)First, you need to find the product you import. This is also the most important and complicated step. You need to find a profitable product and at the same time product, what fits for you. To find that product, you need to conduct market research; you need to make sure what kind of product is missing on the market or imported in too low volume, so you could also fit there. I suggest always conduct market research and start in this field with what you are familiar, experienced with. You should make this step very seriously, if you skip this step, then you will enter into a business like “Blind, intuition, freight forwarder, freight” and you can only hope, intuition was correct.

2)Secondly, find yourself freight forwarder. You tell them the product you want to export or import and ask them all information related to that product importation: Import duties, certificates, docs, costs, etc.

3) After you know all duties and costs, then you need real offers from suppliers. I suggest starting from Alibaba. Com, Just create a free account there and submit a buyng request for your product and soon you will get offers from suppliers all around the world. Only trust gold suppliers at least three years old!!! First I suggest you ask CIF offer ( CIF means the product will be sent to your destination), so also the transport is included the price. This way, it's easier for you to calculate all costs. Later you can change to some other Incoterm term. In Alibaba there are a lot of scammers and cheaters, so you should never choose the cheapest offer, choose something in the middle.

4)After you have offered, you create Excell file, include all costs related import, so you fill to get your full price, after product imported to your country.

5)Now if you have full price and information about the product, then next step, you need to talk with your buyers. You can sell to whole sellers, or you can sell directly to end customers with an online shop. Anyway, you need to talk with buyers and present your products to them and ask their feedback, about opinion- are they willing to buy your products?

6)After talking with your customers, you should have some understand your market and the possible demand volume and prices and profit margin. I really suggest, if you sell your product to end customers, then your profit margin must be at least 50%!! Also, you need to have unique selling point or advantage, what will lift you up from the ground. In other words, your product should be somehow better-compared others ( Don't just think about competing with the price!!) You should ask from customers, what problem they have now with the existing similar products. Then you can let your supplier improve or design your product based on the feedback from customers- then you will acquire real advantage in front of your competitors

7)After you know all selling, product and price information, then its time to order your first order. I suggest order as small order as possible, for a test order.
If you are ready to order, don't forget to sign detailed buying/selling contract. In the contract, you need to write everything related to quality, quantity, shipping terms, timelines and payment methods, also warranty. Ask help from a lawyer with this. Also use secure payment method, If your order amount is less than 10 000 used, then I suggest use Paypal for payments.

8)If your supplier finishes the order, then he sends it to you, and you wait your order arrive. Meanwhile prepare for selling, you should try to sell upfront, get advance payments from customers.

9)After product arrives at your destination, then you contact with your custom broker, send to him all docs and certificates, and he will do custom for you, and you will get your products after duties paid

10)Now you are free to sell!

For exporters:
But if you want to export, then you need to start little differently, compared importing, then steps are following.

1)If you want to export, then you must again find the product, what you can export profitably. You should start looking product from the field where you are expert or experienced. What you need to do is, you need to find the product ( if you are a producer, then you already have it) to get the idea, what to export, Google about the items, what your country is exporting. If you have a product, then you type your product into Alibaba and Indiamart.
You need to compare your product with other similar product what are available out there already. You need to compare following things.
The prices- you compare your product price ( with what you can sell it) with prices out there in the Alibaba, Indiamart, Ebay, etc
The product design, specifications, properties, technology- you compare how good is your product compared other. Does your product have special advantage or something that makes it unique?
Check the competition, look how many companies are selling the similar product, from which country they are, to where they mostly export, etc.

3. After you have checked the market and found that your product is competitive and have advantages in front of others, then you should post your product to import-export platforms, like Alibaba, Indiamart, Ebay. You need to post all needed data and information about your product, and you will start to get inquiries. Also besides the online platforms, you can google the import export forums, blogs. You could contact with your country trading department ( usually, they help their citizens to find import partners)

But If you found your product don't have an advantage, then I suggest you try to modify, redesign your product ( make R and D), you need to make it more unique, try to add some advantages, what others don't have. You already check the market, so you can base on that information what was out there already.

But if its clear, that you cant compete with that product, then you should choose another product and do market research again.

4. If you found buyers now trough online platforms or other channels, then now you need to talk with them, ask their needs, their requirements. You need to ask, what kind of certificates and documents they need for importing. NB! It's your obligation to provide to them all documents and certificates they need. You need to contact your authorities and custom with these questions.

5. After all is ready, and the buyer wants to buy, the you need to sign detailed contract with the buyer and wait for payment after you received then you need to produce or provide the product, pack it accordingly and send to the buyer.

Previous was the very short description of all needed steps you need to take, they don't include everything, and they are not enough detailed. If you are importing exporting big volume and very expensive goods, then before you order, you really need to go to the supplier, buyer country and check his background and be sure, they are reliable and able to produce the goods for you, or they can buy.

NB! I am creating 100% actionable and practical video course about how to get started the import-export business from scratch, all who interested can join below.
U can send PM to me, to know more about my course.

Answered 7 years ago

We if it comes to eCommerce there are a lot of ways to sell it online but if you only focus on artsy things then I advise you to join Etsy, Amazon, and eBay. If you are looking for a dropshipping business then you only need Shopify or ecwid.

Answered 4 years ago

Before I get into the specifics of importing, let me talk about some potential barriers to your success. Importing is not an ideal business for the disorganized or the carefree. Altogether, importing and exporting is a $1.2 trillion global business, so you can be sure it is serious. The good news is that the import and export trade is dominated by small businesses (96%), so you are in the majority.
I can give you excellent reasons why you should think extremely hard before going into the import business:
a. You need a lot of capital because you must buy the products outright, and suppliers will only sell to you in bulk
b. You are completely liable for what you sell, so there is a chance you could be sued if there is something wrong or harmful about your products.
c. You must commit to what you import; you cannot just drop a product because it is not selling, like you can with drop shipping.
d. You could be victimized by scammers and lose your shirt (among other things).
e. You could end up with a lot of products you cannot unload.
f. You must manage your inventory.
g. It can take months before you get your products if you are having them manufactured.
Do not be too intimidated it is plainly important to understand the risks involved before embarking on any new business venture.
Steps to Importing Products from Overseas are as follows:
1. Choose a Product (or Products) to Sell
You as an online seller are considered an import merchant because you do not have to be tied to a single industry or product line, and you buy direct from the overseas manufacturer to resell back home. Your main consideration is choosing a product you can sell, and you must be a good salesman, or you are not going to get anywhere. In most cases, it would be smart to choose products that are in high demand, something you yourself would buy or at least know a lot about. It is also good to sell items that are not immediately available, or those that are in high demand. If you are an eBayer, you could discover some probable candidates in the SaleHoo Market Research Lab.
2. Choose the Supplier
Once you have made a list of your products, you need to find suppliers or manufacturers that carry them. You can search for them individually online or use wholesale supplier directories such as our very own SaleHoo. Make a list of the ones you feel good about and start communicating with them. Ask questions to find out which suppliers are most likely to give you what you need. They should be able to give you client references, business licensing, compliance information, a physical location for the business, and product samples. Failure to deliver any of the above is a red flag. Weed out those that cannot give you most of this information and concentrate on the ones that are left. Now you can talk business.
3. Start Negotiations
Be forewarned, this may not be as easy as negotiating with local suppliers, because you will have to deal with people of different cultures who may not communicate well in English. China, for example, is one of the biggest suppliers of imports for US companies. A typical Chinese supplier will want to establish a personal relationship when doing business, because they focus more on morality and trust than legality and contracts. The end game, of course, is to get the best possible deal you can. Still, there is no reason you cannot build fruitful business relationships while you are at it. Keep in mind though, with other cultures you will need to employ slightly different tactics than you are used to.
4. Place Your First Order
With everything set up, you can place your first order, and arrange for a down payment. Most suppliers will not begin processing an order without it. Arrange for shipping as well. Note that you can get your products faster by air, but it will cost you about six times more than by sea. Some suppliers may offer free on-board freight shipping, which means that the supplier will take care of all transportation costs for loading while the buyer pays for all costs for unloading. Your unloading costs will include the insurance, transport, and expenses for unloading and storing the merchandise.
Make sure that the supplier provides you with the following documents, which will be required by Customs when the shipment arrives:
a. Commercial invoice
b. Packing list
c. Detail sheet
d. Bill of Lading
5. Pay the Taxes: You do not need an import license except for specific products, but you do need a customs broker for your first shipment. The customs broker will take care of all the paperwork required by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for entry of the shipment, provide you with information about import duties, and arrange for the required Customs Single Entry Bond in case you default on custom duties. The custom broker may also make the Import Security filing which is required 24 hours before your shipment leaves the port of origin unless you or the supplier have already taken care of it. You may have to contract a freight-forwarding company to deliver the products to you when they arrive unless you arranged for the shipping company to deliver it to you directly.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

Here's a general guideline to help you get started:
1)Define your business niche
2) Conduct thorough market research
3)Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your target market and product range.
4)Set up your eCommerce website
5)Establish relationships with suppliers
6)Branding and marketing of your products
7)Monitoring your eCommerce site
By following these steps you can build a successful artsy eCommerce business.

Answered a year ago

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