Import From China Business

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A practical guide for starting a small business

Business Start Up Costs

Starting at a Rock Bottom Budget

Many import businesses were born out of someone’s apartment or basement.  If you can start at a business at home, here is a an example of your business start up costs.


Cost ($)

Computer & Printer


Fax Machine





Software – Microsoft Office Student


Software - Accounting

Free after rebates

Phone with voice mail


$60 – 2 lines/month




Business License







Market Research


Travel Expenses


Total Exclude Travel


The above suggests a business start up cost of about $3,500.  If you need to travel to China, you should double your budget to $7,000.

Computer & Printer

The price of computers keeps dropping these days.  I would avoid getting a cheap entry level machine only to find that it is obsolete in a couple of years.  $1,500 goes a long way to getting a mid level computer system. Spend $1,300 on the computer and you'll have $200 left over to buy a good laser black and white printer.

Fax Machine

Although you can do faxing using your computer, I would spend the money and get a good laser fax.  Machine faxing is still the international method of sending quotes, price lists etc.  Avoid those $59 deals that use rolled carbon paper.  The quality is poor and you end up constantly replacing carbon paper.  Plan to spend around $300.


You'll need Microsoft's Office software with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This is the industry standard.  So I would not waste time looking at alternatives.  If you still have kids living at home, you can legitimately buy the student version at around $100.  

A solid accounting software to run your business to get you started right is a good idea.  Don't throw bills in a shoe box.  Soon you will be overwhelmed. QuickBooks is easy to use and is good for those of you who don't like working with numbers.  For the number jocks, Peachtree Accounting is a great alternative.  The best news is that you can often find the accounting software for free after the discounted by rebates.  So it is worth to keep an eye out for the promotions.  Otherwise, plan to spend about $200 to $300.

Phone With Voice Mail

Fight the urge to use your home phone for your import business especially if you have teenagers.  Get a dedicated phone and fax line.  Your family and your business associates will appreciate it. Having a separate fax and phone line is a must for those serious about starting an import from China business at home.  There is nothing worse than not being able to receive calls because you are receiving a 50 page fax from a supplier in China.


You will be sending lots of mail back and forth to China. A standard size letter will cost $0.98 to send via USPS from the United States to China.  If you can sending samples back and forth, the bill will quickly add up.

License, Insurance, Legal Expenses

You will need to buy business insurance and a business license plus pay for the services for a lawyer for legal advice.

Market Research

Regardless of the type of business, you will need to conduct some sort of research whether checking out the industry or looking for suppliers.  This cost will vary depending on your industry and your goods.

Travel Expenses - Depends

If you are getting into importing in a serious way, or if your imported goods is complex, a business trip to the exporter is highly recommended.  If you are importing a simple product, you can get away with not traveling to China. However, visiting the supplier will minimize your risks and ensure that you get the product that you wanted.  Travel abroad is expensive. So count on spending another $3,500 to $5,000.


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