Managing a Business

Blogs.Managing a Business


Importing Goods into the U.S. – An Introductory Guide for Small Business Owners

Comment Count:

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

Importing Goods into the U.S. – An Introductory Guide for Small Business Owners

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: July 3, 2012 Updated: August 4, 2016

Whether you’re looking to diversify your product line or leverage cheaper-made merchandise, selling imported goods in the U.S. can be an important ingredient in small business success.

Interestingly enough, importing doesn’t always necessarily cannibalize the economy here at home. Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (cited in this USA Today article) suggests that for every dollar spent on a Chinese-made item, 55 cents goes to U.S. businesses for services such as marketing and sales. So Americans are getting more than just cheap prices and unique products from overseas markets.

Many small businesses also support high-demand imported products that can’t be found or manufactured here: artisan crafts, furniture, shoes and clothing, and food and beverage products. These represent a lucrative market with margins that can reach up to 700 percent.

If you are interested in importing and selling overseas goods to the U.S. market – whether or not you’re actually based in the U.S. – you’ll need to do your research regarding both the country of export and the country of import (the United States).

Here are some business and regulatory tips to guide you through the process of selling imported goods in the U.S.

Review Import Rejection Laws and Trade Barriers

First, be sure to check U.S. trade barriers and local in-country laws to be certain you can actually export your chosen goods out of the country of origin into the U.S.

While the U.S. is very import-friendly, it does have safety and quality controls that are more stringent than other countries. Likewise, foreign nations sometimes restrict or ban the export of religious ornaments, rare or protected goods, animal by-products (such as furs and ivory), as well as pirated designer goods. There are several guides and links to information about import trade on’s Importing Goods page.

If you want to import or sell agricultural products into the U.S., the Food Safety and Inspection Service provides a checklist and other information to help you comply with laws that govern import of meat, poultry and egg products.

Build Relationships and Network on the Ground in the Export Country

As with all wholesale procurement, you will want to meet and greet the producer or distributor of the product(s) you will be selling. Try to establish whether the company you’re dealing with has export experience. Ask for references. SBA’s Doing Business Abroad guide can help you plan your trip.

Hire a Customs Broker

A licensed customs broker can help you navigate laws and regulations that apply to the transactions your planning, including licenses, calculation of taxes, duty fees, etc. A customs broker prepares all the documentation needed to import goods, just as a freight forwarder does for exporters. Customs brokers also facilitate communication between the importer and the government. Licensed brokers must have expertise in the entry procedures, admissibility requirements, classification, valuation, and the rates of duty, applicable taxes and fees for imported merchandise. The customs broker charges the importer a fee for this advice.

You can search for certified customs brokers at the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America. For international brokers visit the International Federation of Customs Brokers Associations.

Check License or Permit Requirements for Importing Certain Goods

Many imported and exported products are regulated by federal agencies and are listed in SBA’s Exporting/Importing Specific Goods page. If you import or export any of the products listed, you may need to obtain specific licenses and permits or complete additional paperwork. The page also provides information on how to get the appropriate licenses and permits. A customs broker can also help with this aspect of importing goods.

Get Assistance and Training

The federal government provides advice and seminars to small businesses interested in importing.


About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


Hi Caron, Am an importer of ginger, Shea Butter, Sesame seeds i need Buyers for these products how do i source them e-mail thanks
What an incredible article, I loved the article and I believe that my audience will also love, could I put you as a reference on my site? He is the
Hi, I am manufacturer of indian as well as western dresses and also selling unstitched ladies suit and many things. please contact me for order on 9899416986 or emai
Hi, I am manufacturer of indian as well as western dresses and also selling unstitched ladies suit and many things. please contact me for order on 9899416986 or emai
"Importar bons produtos" dos EUA é um sucesso no Brasil. A eficiência de vocês que trabalham na área é incrível!
Dear Carol, I'm small business owner in usa, doing home renovations. I would like to import some of really helpful tools from europe, only non power hand tools,maybe wheelbarrows, shovels etc. Do i need to open new company to do this and do i need to obtain any license for it? I haven't found it anywhere, or i just need to apply for sales tax and start being and selling under current company name? what would you prefer Thank you for your help.
Hi Caron, We help in avoiding quality disputes, claims, order returns, complaints, or even the cheating risk by supplier audit, product quality control or inspection service for your international orders from India. We have rich expertise in Inspection services, like: Container Loading Check | During Production Inspection | Factory Audit | Final Random Inspection | Full Inspection | Initial Production Inspection | Lab Testing | Production Monitoring | Social Audit | Supplier Verification | ...etc. So, whenever you plan purchasing from INDIA, you may contact us and we can surely help you out with the best solutions.
hi i want to start a bussiness to import goods like foos to the usa from peru. please help me how i suppose to star my bussiness. i have beenreading so much information that im confuse thanks and i hope you can help me
SUBJECT: Inspired by your work on International Trade Import/Export. Attention: Ms. Caron Contributor Small Business Administration Dear Ms. Caron: Allow me to introduce myself, The Likeness of the Glory. For the past years, I have been working in oil and Gas industry in several companies as Halliburton, Cameron, Weatherford. I’ve been through several rounds of layoffs, therefore today, I decided to create my own company. Having lived and worked in other countries as Angola, Cabinda, Congo Democratic Republic, Congo Republic, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, England given me a sensitivity and understanding of diverse cultures and customs. In addition, I speak English, French, Portuguese. I read a series of your contributions gave on Small Business Administration, and learned a lot about your experience in International Trade Import/Export which inspired me to reach out to you today with a request for any professional guidance you might be willing to provide. I believe that it would greatly enhance my chance of success were I able to have some mentoring at this point. I would like the opportunity to gain first-hand insight about your experience. I would like to open online store for selling merchandises from China. My question is, what are the requirements to do this type of business One month ago I was in China to see my suppliers and manufacturers, they want to help me for that. The two strongest reasons driving me to seek your advice when it comes to my Business direction are: - Based on my respect for the way you’ve developed your career in the International Trade Import/Export industry, I believe you possess a wealth of knowledge that could assist me in rising to some of the challenges I currently face. - I’ve arrived at the point in my startup Business where I feel I need some coaching to more effectively develop my International Trade Import/Export skills and expertise so that I can possibly move into my business. I understand that your time is very valuable and that you have a busy schedule. If you are unable to grant my wish, I will completely understand. If possible, I would like to discuss my request with you at a time that is convenient for you. I can be reached at Email Address at any time. I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible Sincerely, Bruno
Hi Caron. I have a small interior design practice in Florida and would like to import fabrics from the Eu for my clients. Could you please advise me on how to go about doing this, what it is that I will need, taxes to pay etc? Thank you so much in advance!!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!