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David Bourgoin, a Honolulu lawyer who owns import-export business Honolulu Hawaii Chi Trading Co., suggests the following steps before starting an import business.
1. Research regulations, import quotas and other restrictions on the merchandise you want to import. Regulations can differ on similar goods from different countries. Many countries have trade organizations similar to the U.S. Department of Commerce that will have lists of where to find the products you want. The Internet is a good way to start hunting for merchandise.
U.S. Customs Service, Port of Honolulu, 522-8080, www.customs.gov
U.S. Department of Commerce, 1-800-872-8723 1-800-USA-TRAD, usatc.doc.gov
Service Corps of Retired Executives, 522-8130, www.score.org
Export Legal Assistance Network, 523-7779
2. Learn whether there is demand in Hawaii for the goods.
3. Ask other importers and agencies that help new businesses about shipping, insurance, and other processes involved in importing.
4. Do a test run. Try selling through the Internet, retailers and other venues such as swap meets. Make sure the product will move and the price is viable. Knowing the market you want to sell in is vital to the longevity of your business.
5. Once youve established a venue, set up the infrastructure for it - Web sites, trade shows and the like. Know how readily you can supply your customers with the merchandise youre importing. Then follow up on the sales and, if needed, adjust the way you sell.
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