How do you start an export business

Establishing an import-export company: step by step


Requirements for starting an import-export company

If you want to set up an import-export company, in-depth knowledge of the industry is the be-all and end-all. Nobody will ask you to provide proof of technical knowledge or professional qualifications, but you should at least have a basic knowledge of import and export as well as corporate management. If you want to set up an import-export company, you should also be experienced in international goods and payment transactions. If you also have enough equity to consider starting up, check that you have the following skills:

  • Training as a wholesaler or business economist or a business degree
  • Several years of professional experience in import and export
  • Previous knowledge in the following areas: business administration (bookkeeping, accounting), freight traffic, international payments, warehousing, marketing
  • Comprehensive knowledge of legal regulations (e.g. supplier declaration, import and export regulations as well as import and export controls, customs regulations, etc.)

If you can answer all of this in the affirmative, you now go one step further to formulating your business plan. If you want to realize your business ideas, you need them, especially if you are dependent on outside capital. With a professional business plan you can convince potential donors of your idea and your concept. Your business plan also includes your financial plan, which explains the costs of your import-export company in detail:

  • Capital requirements for the start-up phase (start-up costs, share capital, etc.)
  • Freight and storage costs, taxes, customs fees, costs in international payment transactions
  • Marketing, tax and various insurance expenses
  • Salaries for employees
  • business trips

We would be happy to organize the establishment of your import-export company for you!

Please keep in mind that you need a trade license for special goods that you import or export. For example, if you trade in weapons, explosives or food such as bulk milk, you must be able to prove that you have technical or specialist knowledge. If you need a business license for your profession, please find out in good time which individual requirements have to be met. You can find more information on the subject of a business license in our advisory article “What is a business license and who does it apply to?”.

So you want to become self-employed in the import-export industry. “Import-export company” is a colloquial term that is used for a wide range of activities and is mostly assigned to the wholesale sector. Wholesale does not always have to be international, but can also be carried out domestically. Often, importers and exporters rely on forwarding agents. You can find out how to set up one in our article "Setting up a transport company". In addition to a wide range of laws and guidelines for the trade in goods, you should consider which products you would like to import and export before setting up a business. It is also important to think about the following questions in advance:


  • From which countries would you like to import goods?
  • Which markets are relevant for you?
  • Where do you get goods of appropriate quality and at what price?
  • How high are the transport costs and, if applicable, customs duties for the transport?


  • How do you want to acquire business partners abroad?
  • Are there any export restrictions?
  • Do you need an EORI number?
  • Do the goods from abroad meet German regulations and standards?
  • Are you familiar with import regulations and customs?
  • Do you have the necessary knowledge for the foreign market (language, culture, etc.)?


Import-export company as GmbH or sole proprietorship: choose legal form

In order to be able to fulfill the dream of your own import-export company, you must first decide which legal form is suitable for your company. Common legal forms for business start-ups in the industry are the GmbH or the sole proprietorship. When making your choice, please also note that the individual legal forms also differ in terms of taxation.

Learn more about the possible legal forms:

After you have decided on a legal form, the next step is to register your business so that you can buy and sell goods and issue invoices.

Which company suits me and my business idea?


Our packages for the simple establishment of your import-export company


The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the greatest care. However, we cannot guarantee that it is correct, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult a technical expert in a specific case - we will be happy to put you in touch. assumes no liability for damage caused by errors in the texts.