and cashing in on the $1.3 trillion import/export business. Increased technology has made this type of business perfect for the home. “It’s excellent because you really don’t have people coming in and out of your office every day,” says Brower, also regional director for the National Association of Home-Based Businesses (NAHBB) in Owings Mills, Maryland. “Most of your work is done over the phone and via fax.”
To successfully trade internationally, you must research the country you wish to import from or export to and identify manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors who will supply and deliver your products to specific destinations. You must also be familiar with government regulations concerning customs, shipping, tariffs and pricing (see “How To Build A Thriving Import/Export Business,” May 1997). Knowledge of a foreign language is helpful but not necessary since English is recognized as the international language for doing business.
One of the first steps to trading is deciding whether there is a market for your product. Brower, 47, realized a niche market for ethnic eyeglass frames after taking with a black optometrist about the workmanship of European-fitted frames. She found that African Americans have wider bridges, rounder faces and longer temples but that most frames are made for people with narrow bridges and shorter temples. “That’s why the frame slides down the nose, leaves deep marks on the side and hurts behind the ears,” says Brower.
With assistance from Andecker International, an import/export management company in Baltimore, Brower identified four foreign manufacturers of ethnic-fitted frames She began importing $1,000 worth of eyeglass wear and selling through four U.S. wholesalers and distributors. Cost ranges from $75-$125 per pair. She is also working with an American manufacturer to export ethnic fitted sunglasses overseas. (Atlantic Optical Framewear; (410) 654-4469)
Brower has earned revenues of nearly $35,000. Typical annual gross revenues for a home-based international trade company are $35,000- $60,000 and up, depending on the product or service you are trading and your competition.
The international trade business is booming. Companies are finding that to remain competitive and stay successful, they must branch out into foreign lands. “Ninety percent of our people want to go into it, but they think it’s so far above them,” says Rudy Lewis, president of the NAHBB. “But it’s a super area. It’s real money and this is one area where African Americans can excel.”
Darrin Wheeler, 31, owner of D.W. Leather Imports, (215) 228-6778, in Philadelphia, realized the potential of international trade while working as a sports agent in Cyprus, off the coast of Greece. Representing international basketball players, Wheeler says he grew fond of working with different countries. After leaving athletics in 1995, he began training to become a stockbroker and, last December. started a home-based international trade business part time. While his company is still in the development stages, Wheeler expects to begin importing leather goods–including handbags, briefcases and wallets–from India and Thailand this year.
Since international business deals take longer to close, working in the import/export business requires patience. Also, time differences may extend your