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Starting you importing business

07 March 2011

My advice to anyone starting their own business is to thoroughly research your market, your competitors and your product and look for a market niche (which is easier said than done). As we all know we are a part of a very competitive global market and it is increasingly difficult to come up with something that is different. A good friend once explained the planning is a process, not an event.

Have a clear picture of where you want to be in 3, 5 and 10 years. My father once taught me \"if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there\".

You will need loads of energy, lots of time, good advisers and remember that every overnight success is 10 years in the making!

From my involvement in advertising (I worked in new business development and account management) I learned the value of strategic planning based on consumer insights.

What seems like a great idea to you may not excite the consumer and that is why you need research.

The web is your best resource for finding pretty much everything you need to know when researching your business idea. I spent literally years looking at what was out there in the laptop bag world. The web showed me what my retailers wanted, what my competitors were doing and what my consumers were really saying -globally.

Working with China

Whether you are in the start up phase or are an established business, China presents massive opportunities for your business. You just need to go into the process with eyes wide open and be as wise as you can with whom you begin to work with.

The key to being successful really depends on finding the right supplier. This can be quite daunting, considering when you start to search there will be potentially hundreds of factories vying for your business.

Using sourcing websites

When I began to look for my supplier in China I went firstly to the sourcing sites. Some of these included and . This is a direct way to make contact with factories all over the world, view their company profile, look at their products and communicate with them using chat or email. The initial qualifying factor for me was to find a contact that could speak good English and who immediately had a good understanding of what I was sourcing. If I couldn't clearly communicate then I was going nowhere fast.

If you go down the route of using a sourcing site be prepared for the large amount of time it will take to find a legitimate supplier. A good cross check is to see if they exhibit at recognized trade show events, as this was one way I determined if they were large and professional.

Overseas agents or trading companies

Trading companies or agent organizations that act as a middleman and who work on your behalf in China have both advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages are theyare able to speak your language and will come with contacts ready to go. The disadvantages could be that this short cut will come at a cost.They will be paid commissions by their suppliers and may not recommend the right company for your needs but rather the one that will give them the best commission.In the end you will pay inflated prices as they make their margin on top of the factory price.

If you take it slower, developing direct factory contacts will benefit you in the long run.

Attending trade fairs in China

Another means of finding suppliers is to attend trade fairs in China. Each industry will have an array of trade events that are worth going to. Meeting suppliers at these events will typically be rewarding as you can see product first hand, meet the contacts and build rapport. This is a vital aspect of successful business dealings in Asia.

Most exhibitors will have staff on hand that will speak quite good English, as they will be expecting to do export business.

Trade shows also give you an opportunity to view a wide number of factories at the same time giving you choice and comparisons.

The only down side of attending fairs is the cost, but lets face it. If you are not prepared to invest in the most important part of being an importer (finding good suppliers) then this business isn't for you.