Humanity has always been involved in one kind of trade or another. The role of middleman did not follow far behind. Today, the middleman – or agent – remains one of the most attractive business models for those who have no capital to invest. The added benefit is that, unlike franchisees, agents work exclusively for themselves. But where do you start getting into this type of business? Well, a good idea helps:
Here are three recent success stories:
- Frank Audsley lives in Croydon, south of London. He earns over 2,500 euros a month and exports wine to the Far East. At the end of 2010 he enrolled in an import / export agent training course and was completely open to which sector to work in. “I really had no idea what products to start in. But one night I saw a short article on the news about Chinese developing western tastes. A light went on my head and I went to the course’s lead database I knew I had seen a European winery looking for export opportunities. Amazingly, we had reached a deal and found the first buyer within two months! “
- Meryam Gul is a shopkeeper from North London. It imports garden fencing from India to the UK. She says: “I always wanted to get involved in international trade because I saw how relatives in Cyprus made a living from it.” I discovered how I could get involved in importing and exporting without risking capital – good news, since I had few savings. The fencing opportunity just fell into my hands – an advertisement I saw drew my attention to an Indian supplier looking for an agency and when I contacted them we got along really well. I’ve since learned how to find buyers for him and the product is good and practically sells itself. My husband now runs the store. I forecast an income of £ 50,000 for this second year of trading. “
- Jamie Atwill is a local government employee in the Midlands. He imports organic olive oil from Portugal to Ireland and the Netherlands – “I was on vacation with my girlfriend in Galicia, which is where she is from. We came to Portugal for the day and found this fabulous olive oil at a price of a we have Details recorded, but only when we returned to the UK did we consider importing them here. My friend did a little research and found the agency approach to be the best for us – because we had no capital. And the next day I spotted an ad for a home study course in the press. “Between us we started at the end of the first manual and within six weeks we had negotiated an exclusive contract with the farmer in Ireland and the Netherlands and had already received samples from wholesalers in both countries. We already have nearly a dozen customers who buy the olive oil regularly and we are in the process of switching to organic wines from the same region of Portugal. “
General information on import / export is generally easy to find. Websites like Alibaba and Tradekey are great sources of trade contacts, and support is available from a variety of government agencies, trade associations, etc. Despite these possibilities, there is surprisingly little information on the internet (or anywhere else) on how to do an import / export agent. There is a lot of overlap in the skills required depending on how you approach the business, but the agent’s business model is very different:
1) It allows you to get into world trade without risking your own money or your bank manager’s inventory – a risky business especially when you are starting out.
2) Since you are not legally a client in the deals you have put together, you are not legally responsible if something goes wrong.
3) Compared to an import / export dealer, you can proceed more flexibly. They are comparatively easy to follow the money into newly developing markets, which makes this business model particularly resistant to recessionary economic cycles.
4) A full time agent could potentially make arrangements with half a dozen or more suppliers to make all sorts of products for different markets. So variety is the name of the game!
While it doesn’t always feel like this when you watch the news, world trade is currently booming and it is a good time to get started. There are opportunities in the UK too. UK manufacturing, after years of neglect, is in a comparatively strong export position with a weak pound and low interest rates. Many of you would love to hear from you …
The names have been changed in this article for privacy reasons.