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Making Money in the Import Export Business

Updated on March 11, 2013
Otavalo Market
Otavalo Market | Source

The thought of making money selling goods purchased while you are traveling and enjoying different cultures is an alluring thought. Making money in the import export business is more than just a whim, it is relatively simple to do. It requires a desire to travel and make an income while traveling.

There are many different countries that you can travel to and purchase unique items not readily available back home, at remarkably low prices. One can make from three to four times ones initial money invested on imported goods. As an example I will tell my story about being in the import export business.

My wife and I in Quito, Ecuador
My wife and I in Quito, Ecuador | Source

I had recently moved to Colombia, when I decided to try out the import export business. I was living in Cali, Colombia. My wife and I flew to Quito Ecuador. Our plan was to go to Otavalo Ecuador and purchase artesanias and return to Colombia to start our new retail business.

When we arrived in Quito we rested for a day and took in the sites of Quito. The third morning we rode a bus from Quito to Otavalo where we found a quaint little hostel to crash in. Otavalo has the largest open air market in South America. Vendors flock from the Andes Mountains to go to the Otavalo market to sell their wares. There is everything from jewelry to livestock for sale. So we started early on Saturday morning looking for inventory to buy. It was overwhelming because of the vast quantity of vendors and different products available. I had planned on spending $2,000 on products, but by the time I had purchased $1,200 of merchandise we had more than we could carry. We shipped some merchandise and we loaded 4 suitcases and two large carry on bags full of goods to return to Colombia.

A hostal in Quito
A hostal in Quito | Source

We arrived at home after spending a marvelous week in Ecuador. When we arrived at home in Colombia, I immediately set up a store account thru Amazon and I found a fulfillment company in the United States to handle my sales deliveries. I designed my Amazon online store. Shortly thereafter we opened a small store in our neighborhood. I learned a lot about the import export business during this process. I had investigated it well before I started but I learned more from the actual experience. Here are the basics to making money in the import export business.

1- Choose a product that you are passionate about and at the same time is scarce in the United States. It always helps to have a unique product with an international flare.

2- Make sure that this product is in demand back home.

3- Know your price point. Know what it retails for in the United States, and then buy the product for about a quarter of that retail price. If your product qualifies in this price structure, you can then sell wholesale and double your money or retail and collect four times what you paid for the goods.

4- Have a marketing plan. You can sell on line or in a small store or you can become a distributer.

5- Then you need a plan to replenish your inventories without always traveling.

Otavalo Market
Otavalo Market | Source

We sold purses, bracelets, wallets, necklaces, tapestries and rugs. All of our inventory was very unique and very colorful. We had “one of a kind goods.” Everything was hand made by the indigenous indians of Ecuador and Colombia. Our products could not be duplicated.

The merchandise that we sold in Colombia we doubled our money on. Colombians can't afford the same prices as someone in the United States so we had to settle for that return. The products that we sold in the United States we made at least four times what we paid for them. And best of all we had a lot of fun in the process.

South America is a great place to purchase merchandise to resell in the United States, Canada, or Europe. The cost of living in almost all of South America is only a fraction of what it is in the United States. And in every case you can bargain for the best price. We could always buy products for about 50% of what the vendor wanted. That allowed us an enormous margin for profit.

Otavalo Market
Otavalo Market | Source

The list of possible products is endless. Some possibilities are, pottery, textiles, leather goods, jewelry, purses, rugs, tapestries, sweaters, gloves, paintings, trays, wallets, and on and on. The more you travel the more opportunities you will find.

If one chooses to sell products online thru Amazon or on one's own web site, the amount of traffic you have to your site is obviously very important. In the case of Amazon they have a lot of traffic, but you still have to do some optimization. If you use your own site, then you have a lot more marketing ahead of you to draw in traffic. Some people just sell their products on Ebay. There are other sites that will help sell your merchandise also.

As far as replenishing your inventory, you need to establish relationships with the vendors where you purchase your merchandise. That is very easy to do, because every vendor that I have met in South America would bend over backwards to help me so that they could sell me more products. The vendors in Otavalo were real pros at shipping and exporting their products.

Here are some examples of the products that I was selling.

Suede handmade walllets
Suede handmade walllets | Source
Hand sewn and embroidered purses
Hand sewn and embroidered purses | Source
Hand painted wooden trays
Hand painted wooden trays | Source
Handmade ear rings from bulls horns
Handmade ear rings from bulls horns | Source
Hand woven tapestry
Hand woven tapestry | Source
Bracelets made of tagua
Bracelets made of tagua | Source


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    • csgibson profile image

      Craig Gibson 4 years ago from Traverse City Michigan

      I am sure you will enjoy Cali. There are many things here to import as long as you can market them in the United States.

    • profile image

      N3RD 4 years ago

      Great Article! It made me join hubpages just to say thank you and to follow you going forward.

      I hope to move to Cali within the next 12months and have had an idea of importing something to the country from the US, but this article has opened my eyes to so much more.

      Thank you again.