Maybe you have been wondering how to start mini importation business in Ghana. Is it really possible to buy goods abroad at a bargain price and sell it in Ghana and make a profit? What do you need to get such business running? How much does it cost to start mini importation business in Ghana? We’ll address some of these questions in this article.
Many Ghanaian entrepreneurs are interested in small quantities of goods importing directly, cutting off large intermediaries.
Most of them don’t have relevant experience on how to start a mini importation business. People in business think it’s effortless: to find a foreign supplier, to buy the goods at a low price, to ship the vessel home, and sell at a high price in the Ghanaian market.
It’s no secret that in our time most of the goods in the world are produced in Asia, with China taking the major portion. But importing a small batch of goods is not always so simple. You can have a lot of various problems, including:
- Shipping cost is higher than the value of goods;
- Order is less than the MOQ (minimum order quantity) of the supplier;
- big producers sell the goods at a low price only to big importers.
Things You Should Know Before Getting Started
Many of the products and suppliers that are listed in this article are made or based in China. Although we will also talk about products from the US and Europe, the tips listed in this article talks more about buying products from Chinese manufacturers and suppliers.
You might want to ask why China?
As we all know, most products in the world today are manufactured in Asia, particularly China. Toys, home appliances, accessories, computers, laptops, mobile phones and even Apple’s iPads are made in China.
Let’s try to verify this by doing a quick check of the products that are around you right now. You would be amazed that roughly 4 out of 5 things around you were manufactured in China.
China is also one of the cheapest manufacturers in the world because of its low labour and production costs. As a result, many of the big brands that you know (Apple, HP, Louis Vuitton etc) make their products through factories and contractors based in China.
To ensure the quality of their products are not compromised, US and European countries set very strict standards which the Chinese usually comply with.
How to Start Mini Importation Business in Ghana?
What is mini importation? Well, different companies have various definitions of buyers with small quantities. As a rule, small businesses include entrepreneurs that import goods for less than $500,000 a year. But for many start-up entrepreneurs, such amount is too high.
Customers buying goods for less than $2,000 per order, and those who are just starting a new business belong to mini importers too.
What Do You Need to Start Mini Importation Business in Ghana
To join the new and growing league of small businessmen and women who can now import products at low wholesale prices directly from overseas suppliers and manufacturers, you would need just the following:
- A computer or mobile phone with access to the Internet;
- An active e-mail address;
- An actual home or office address in Ghana where the items you order will be shipped to;
- A little amount of money in your bank account.
This means that you can shop for, order and import all the products you want to sell from the comfort of your bed, breakfast table or while you are sitting on a bus (via your mobile phone).
1) What Goods Are Suitable for Mini Importation?
Expensive or Small-Sized Goods
Shipping is always a problem for mini importers. Their cargo volume is always too small for container capacity, and airmail costs 8-10 times higher than sea transportation. Large items are not suitable for small importing. In this case, the freight cost is higher than the value of goods. With a high total price, you can be uncompetitive in the domestic market.
For small importers, expensive and small products are the best choice. The cost of transportation is not high, sometimes only 10% of the value of the goods.
For example, they can be fashion accessories, small electronic gadgets, watches, etc. Moreover, false artificial and natural hair is in great demand among Ghanaian ladies. The largest part of Africa’s population is young people. Therefore, consider their interests and needs while choosing the goods for your mini importation business.
Exclusive and Extraordinary Products
Customers can try to find some special and exciting things and avoid mass-market items.
Some people think that everyday products, for example, socks are elementary to sell. But a lot of entrepreneurs import socks at a low price. Competing with them is difficult. Such goods have small added value. And you will not earn a lot with them. At the same time, you can buy some extraordinary socks for sale, such as “non-slip children’s socks,” or socks with an unusual design.
2) Where to Buy Goods
The following websites are our top recommendations as online marketplaces that sell products at low wholesale prices:
Aliexpress.com has become the leading destination for small scale importers looking to buy goods at wholesale prices from China.
Aliexpress is one of the subsidiaries of the Alibaba Group which dominates internet-based commerce in China.
In fact, in 2012, Alibaba’s portals handled sales of up to 1.1 trillion Yuan ($170 billion), more than its competitors (eBay and Amazon.com combined). The Alibaba Group is estimated to be worth between $55 billion to more than $120 billion.
The Alibaba Group launched Aliexpress in 2010 as an online retail service made up of mostly small sellers offering products to online buyers. It has more than 20 major product categories and sells to registered users and buyers in more than 220 countries around the world. You can visit its homepage at www.aliexpress.com
DHgate.com is a business-to-business (B2B) e-Commerce website connecting China-based small and medium enterprises with buyers overseas.
The website is a fast trading marketplace where users can order Chinese-manufactured products directly through the site. The company has been in business since 2004 and is backed by investors KPCB, JAFCO and Warburg Pincus.
It offers customer support through online chat, e-mail messages and phone support. The website is primarily in English but is also offered in other popular languages spoken in Africa such as French and Spanish. DHgate offers a wide range of products and you can visit its home page at www.dhgate.com
iPmart.com (started in 2001) is a huge wholesale market that ships products from China, USA and Malaysia. Unlike Aliexpress.com and DHgate.com which have a wide range of products, iPmart.com is focused on electronic gadgets like mobile phones, game consoles and their spare parts and accessories. If you’re interested in technology products, iPmart.com is the place for you. You can visit its homepage at www.ipmart.com
To start shopping and placing your orders on any of these websites, you need to sign up to become a registered member. To sign up or register is usually very easy.
By clicking on the ‘Join Free’ or ‘Register’ link at the top left/right corner of the home page, you will be sent to a registration page to complete a short form. All that is usually required is a Name, valid Email address and Password. If you prefer, you could sign up or register using your Facebook account.
As soon as your registration is complete, you can start shopping and adding items to your cart. When you’re ready to order, you will be led to the Payment page.
3) How to Pay for Goods
Payment was one of the reasons why it was nearly impossible for small businesses to import directly from overseas manufacturers and suppliers.
Today, through easy online payment systems, all the websites we mentioned above accept payment through a wide range of channels. You can do a simple bank transfer or pay with a credit/debit card. Yes, the same card you use at the ATMs can be used to make purchases on these websites.
Just make sure your bank account is sufficiently funded so you can make payments. Fast and easy! No banks or long processes involved.
4) How to Avoid Being Scammed
Scams and fraud have been a big issue in Internet-based transactions and e-Commerce for a long time. A lot of newcomers are afraid to be deceived when buying goods on the Internet. But, in truth, rarely very few faced such a problem.
You might choose to ask the following questions
- What if I receive the products and they are fake or not exactly as the supplier described?
- What if I pay for the products but they are never shipped and delivered?
- How can you make sure that you get the EXACT products you paid for without getting scammed?
All the websites we have recommended to you in this article have some form of ‘buyer protection’ mechanism built into the payment process.
This mechanism, also known as ‘Escrow’, is the same role the banks have played in the import business and international trade for a long time. The way ‘escrow’ or buyer protection works is simple. Rather than pay the seller directly, Aliexpress, DHgate and iPmart withholds your payment until you receive the products you ordered and confirm that they are not fake/damaged.
Sites like Aliexpress.com and DHgate.com offer reimbursements and return your money if you are not satisfied with the products you receive. All of this is done to reduce the risk/fear that you’ll lose your money.
5) How to Find High-Quality Products and Reliable Sellers
This is usually one of the biggest concerns most people have about buying products from China.
Unlike the strict quality and safety standards which protect buyers in the US and Europe, African small businesses are vulnerable to low-quality products. So how can you be sure that you’re buying good quality products from a reliable seller?
This is where the beauty of customer feedback ratings come in.
A Feedback Rating is a measure of a seller’s reputation on AliExpress and DHgate. After every transaction is completed, buyers can leave positive or negative feedback based on their experience with that seller. This rating adds up to affect the overall rating of that seller.
If the seller usually delivers as promised, he/she often gets more positive feedback from satisfied customers. On the flip side, if the seller’s service is crap, dissatisfied customers will be happy to give him/her negative feedback which brings down the seller’s rating.
Some of these ratings are based on a scale of 0 to 100% or between 1 (low) and 5 (high) stars. So, when you find a product you’re interested in, we strongly recommend that you take a quick look at the seller’s feedback rating.
We advise that you only consider sellers who have an average positive feedback rating of 90% or 4 and higher.
However, this rule is not absolute. You should take the time to read the actual comments and feedback by previous buyers. From reading these, you will get some vital insights and pieces of information about the quality of the seller’s product, early or late deliveries and so on.
We also strongly advise that you take your time to read the product descriptions/details, seller guarantees and shipping conditions which are usually at the bottom of every product page. You need to confirm that the product you’re buying has the features you’re looking for. Remember, what you pay for is what you get.
6) How will the Goods be Delivered to You
At the same time, free of charge delivery is made for a longer time. Usually, it takes from 15 to 60 days according to the type of goods and your location. Besides, it may be unreal to track delivery while shipping. But if it’s not a big problem for you, you can save enough money and enlarge the profit from selling goods substantially.
Other shipping ways are DHL, EMS, and FedEx mail services. Add your mobile number when arranging to ship. The carrier company will call you when the goods are delivered to the destination.
7) How to Sell Your Goods
If you already have (or can find) a small shop for the products you import, that would be great. This is the oldest and traditional method around but it still works. Interested buyers will walk into your shop and possibly buy from you. You will likely have a significant advantage over any competitors around who sell the same products as you do.
Because you import directly from overseas suppliers, you can sell your products at much lower prices that they can’t even dream of. It’s your trade secret!
For those entrepreneurs who would love to start this business but do not have a physical store or shop (and cannot afford one), there is hope. The internet has changed the whole selling experience and made it much easier to sell stuff to both people you know and total strangers.
Using a popular social media network like Facebook, it is now possible for anyone to set up an online store/shop for free! All you have to do is upload pictures of the interesting items you just imported and invite your friends (and their friends) to come have a look. If they like the product and price, they’ll contact you to purchase it. Read our comprehensive guide on how to start an online store in Ghana.
8) How Much Money Do You Need to Start Mini Importation Business in Ghana?
Start with small amount. You don’t need millions for mini importation. Take a small batch of goods and see how they will be sold. In any case, if the product is in demand, you can make a margin from 50 to 100 percent of its purchase price. As you make some money in your new import business, you can start to try out other products that cost a little more.
Never let your excitement about this business get the better of you. Avoid the temptation to invest a lot of capital when you start out unless you already have ready buyers for your products.
Also, Look for your niche in small importation, supply Ghanaians with good quality goods, and get your deserved profit.