A-Z of starting a mini importation business in Nigeria

Mini importation as a viable business has thrived in Nigeria in recent times because of its typically low startup costs and flexibility. As of the end of Q3 2021, the statistical value for imports into Nigeria stood at a whopping total of N8,153.79 Billion, according to the National Bureau of statistics

Therefore, it is safe to say that the Nigerian economy is import driven and this can be a really cool business opportunity for entrepreneurs in the country. Mini importation can be taken as a side hustle as well as a major source of income for any Nigerian. It is simply buying goods from other countries like China, Turkey, Japan, and others at wholesale prices to resell within Nigeria at a slightly higher price.

Why start a mini-importation business?

  • Relatively low startup cost: One of the reasons why most people go into mini importation business is because of its low initial capital requisition in comparison with other traditional businesses in Nigeria.
  • Work from home job: All it requires is some really good online communication skills to be able to buy and market your wares without stress.
  • Profitable investment: The returns are high when one is consistent and can invest in digital marketing as well.

Pros and cons of a mini-importation business in Nigeria

Pros:  

Lucrative business opportunity with huge profit margin

Potential to expand into major supply chain.

Cons:

Risk of goods being lost or defective in transit

Risk of falling victim to fraudsters

Sometimes, goods bought may not be as shown online.

Risk of goods being seized by customs and other government regulations.

Helpful tips on mini-importation business

  • Start micro:  You don’t have to go all-out in the beginning to prove a point. Instead, test the market with a few ideas before ordering in large quantities. Know what your customers want before placing an order because once it is delivered, there’s no going back.
  • Buy more of light weight items to reduce shipping cost.
  • Advertise your goods on social media platforms to reduce costs and get free traffic: Your whatsapp status and Instagram stories for instance, could bring your business closer to your target audience at no extra cost to you.
  • Whatsapp Group purchases: To reduce cost of shipping and get easy funding for your business, you could open different Whatsapp interest groups for your customers to see what you plan to buy and make their choices ahead by pre-ordering.
  • Be consistent: Let people know you for whatever you decide to sell. Don’t be a seasonal importer, one day you’re into electronics and the next it is clothing, or makeup. You’d lose your market fast if you do this.
  • Compare prices before buying: Compare how much an item is sold in Nigeria with its foreign price, then include logistics and other fees margin to see if the item is a profitable investment before going into the business.

Let’s dive into how to import goods from China with ease.

A-Z of starting a mini-import business from China

Importing from China is divided into two, the buying stage and the shipping stage. For the buying, you can either decide to buy your goods yourself or through an agent.

1. Pick a niche

A niche is a specific category of product you want your business to specialize in. You cannot sell everything (at least not when starting), so it is important to determine your area of specialty before even venturing into a foreign market. For example, an area of specialization could either be human hair extensions, food and groceries, clothing, household items, or electronics.

In each niche, there are sub-branches you can capitalize on. For instance, under electronics, you could decide to sell home gadgets like Plasma Television, sockets, wires, and the like. Or yours could be children’s wares under the clothing line. Whatever you choose to focus on, it must be something that has a ready market of people who are willing to pay for it.

2. Register your business with CAC

Although this is not a prerequisite to starting an importation business in Nigeria, rather, it is key if you want your business to gain credibility before your customers. 

These days, many people are scared of losing their money to fraudsters online especially when a transaction involves payment before delivery. The reason is because many people have fallen victim in the past and it has made them suspicious of everything online. 

That’s why you need to register your business to give a trustworthy image to your business. At least one advantage is that, when someone expresses concern over your credibility before making payment for a product, you can easily show them your certificate of registration. 

Read: How to register a business name in Nigeria

3. Select a retail site

To have a successful mini-importation business, you need to know how to buy from retail sites. Retail sites give you direct access to different producing companies. This means that you can view similar companies’ wares, compare their prices and pick the one suitable for you, all on a website.

It is worthy of note, that one needs to be careful when buying from any company listed on these sites. Because some of them are unreliable and into fraudulent practices. Therefore in order to ensure that quality is not compromised, it is necessary to check a company’s reviews and ratings on the site by previous customers. Go for the 5 star and 4 star companies with glowing reviews that show good customer relations and product quality.

Listed below are some reliable retail sites you can buy from. A few of them are completely written in Chinese hence, you would need to use a translator such as Google translator in order to understand them: 

  • Alibaba.com: Alibaba is one of the largest retail stores that sells quality goods at affordable prices. 
  • Aliexpress.com: Aliexpress is a trusted store that sells good products. But when compared with Alibaba and 1688, their prices tend to be higher.
  • 1688.com: 1688 uses the Chinese currency, Yuan, in making transactions but it is one of the cheapest retail sites with over millions of producers displaying their goods on this store.

Others are DHgate, Amazon, Everbuying, and iPmart.

4. Make payment for your goods and logistics

After selecting your preferred goods from the retail site the next thing is to make payment. You can either pay directly by yourself via the add-to-cart option on their website.

Then make payment using your debit MasterCard, or PayPal account, or direct bank transfer to the suppliers’ account. Your goods will be shipped to you within 14 days. But to do this, you need a Chinese account to make a direct transfer to Chinese sellers. This would cost more.

The second way is buying through agents. Agents are people who act as middlemen between Chinese sellers and you the buyer. They will help you buy from the producer, make payment, and take care of the shipping to Nigeria on your behalf. 

All you’d need to do is send them links to specific products you want to buy from the sites and give them order details such as color, sizes, and quantities and leave the rest them. The agents will then proceed to procure your goods for you and call you to pick up your goods from their offices when it arrives. They will also handle logistics down to your doorstep if you want, but at extra cost to you. Agents normally charge a fee for their services.

5. Sell your goods

There’s no point buying goods you cannot sell. So it is necessary you learn how to market your goods before they are even imported into the country, and there are so many ways to do that. Such as: selling on e-commerce sites like Jumia, Konga, Olx, and Jiji. To get started on these sites, you have to register your business with them first. Secondly, leverage social media tools to promote your goods such as Facebook groups, Youtube shorts, Instagram reels and hashtags, and lastly, Whatsapp groups and status.

Other things you should know

Shipping fee: Shipping costs are what consume most of the profit in mini-importation business. 

Why is that so? 

It is calculated based on the weight of your goods; therefore it is advisable to buy lightweight goods for you not to incur overwhelming costs, especially as a beginner. Things like wristwatches, jewelry, scarves, children’s wear, do not attract high shipping costs because the heavier your shipment, the higher the shipping fee.

One trick to reduce shipping costs is to find people who are buying related goods and join resources with them. This way, you can all pay for logistics as a group and divide the cost of shipping among yourselves.

There are two kinds of shipping: Express shipping by air which takes 48-72 hours from the time of purchase to get your goods to Nigeria. It’s fast but costs more. 

There is also the regular shipping which takes 14-15 days to complete a delivery.


Minimum order quantity: MOQ is the minimum number of orders a producer will take to sell to you, the retailer at wholesale price. Usually to get goods at cheaper price you have to buy in large quantities but due to recent development that is no longer necessary. MOQ varies with producers and with products, some producers will take lesser quantities as the minimum while for other products, the MOQ is higher depending on the producer.

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Joy Gabriel

Joy Gabriel

Joy Gabriel is a business strategist and content creator for MakeMoney.ng. Her passion is creating solutions to entrepreneurship problems. She loves to read and teach others whenever she's not working.

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