Since the dawn of time, mankind has been involved in trade of some sort or another. The role of middleman followed not far behind. Today, the middleman – or agent – remains one of the most attractive business models for those with no capital to invest. And the added benefit is that, unlike franchisees, agents work solely for themselves. But, where do you begin to get into this kind of business? Well, a bright idea helps:
Here are three recent success stories:
- Frank Audsley lives in Croydon, south of London. He’s making over €2,500 a month exporting wine to the Far East. In late 2010 he enrolled on a training course for Import/Export Agents with an utterly open mind on what sector to work in. “I really hadn’t any idea at all of what products to get started in. But one night I saw a short item in the news about Chinese people developing western tastes. A light went on my head and I went to check the course’s database of leads. I knew I’d seen a European Winery seeking export opportunities. Amazingly we had a deal agreed and the first buyers found within two months!”
- Meryam Gul is a shopkeeper from North London. She imports Garden Fencing from India to the UK. She says “I always wanted to get involved in International Trade, as I saw relatives in Cyprus make a handsome living from it. “I discovered how to get involved in import and export without risking any capital – good news as I had few savings. The fencing opportunity just fell into my hands – an advertisement I saw alerted me to an Indian supplier seeking representation, and when I contacted him we really hit it off. I’ve since learned how to track down buyers for him, and the product is a good one and virtually sells itself. My husband looks after the shop now, I’m projecting an income of £50,000 in this, my second year of trading.”
- Jamie Atwill is a local government worker in the Midlands. He imports organic olive oil from Portugal to Ireland and the Netherlands – “I was on holiday with my girlfriend in Galicia, where she comes from. We popped across to Portugal for the day and found this fabulous olive oil for sale at what amounted to a farm shop. We took details, but only on returning to the UK did we think about importing it here. My girlfriend did a bit of research and came up with the agency approach as the best for us – because we didn’t have any capital to spare. And just the very next day I spotted an advertisement for a home-study course the press. “Between us we got started by the end of the first manual, and within six weeks we had negotiated an exclusive deal with the farmer for Ireland and the Netherlands, and were already getting samples to wholesalers all over the two countries. We have nearly a dozen customers already buying the olive oil on a regular basis, and we are about to move into organic wines from the same region of Portugal.”
General information about Import/Export is generally easy to find. Websites like Alibaba and Tradekey are great sources of trade leads, and support is available from a variety of government bodies, trade associations etc. However despite opportunities like these there is surprisingly little on the web (or anywhere else for that matter) about how to become an Import/Export Agent. There’s big overlap in the skills set required whichever way you approach the business, but the Agent’s business model is quite different:
1) It allows you to get into world trade without risking your own money or your bank manager’s on stock – a risky business, particularly when you’re starting out.
2) Because you aren’t legally a principal in the deals you put together, you are not utitmately legally responsible if anything goes wrong.
3) Compared to an import/export distributor, you are able to have a more flexible approach to business. You are able to “follow the money” into newly developing markets comparatively easily, which makes this business model particularly resilient to recessionary business cycles.
4) A full-time agent could quite possibly have agreements in place with half a dozen or more suppliers, a making all sorts of different products for different markets. So variety is the name of the game!
While it doesn’t always feel seem like it when you watch the news, world trade is currently booming, and it’s a great time to get started. Even in the UK there are opportunities. British manufacturing, after years of neglect, now finds itself in a comparatively strong position for export, with a weak pound and low interest rates. Many of them would be pleased to hear from you…
Names have been changed in this article for reasons of privacy.