How to Start a Linen Exporting Business

If you like working with people from different cultures, are detail oriented and enjoy selling, then running an export business might be the job for you. Exporting is a good way to expand your domestic linen business and increase sales and profits. If you are just starting a linen business, exporting is also a good entree into the world of international trade. Follow a few important guidelines to make your move into the linen exporting business as smooth as possible.


Identify the range and type of linen products you will offer through your business. For example, products in heavy demand globally include table linens ranging from runners and napkins to tablecloths. High-demand products also include bed linens ranging from sheets and pillow covers to duvets and bedspreads.


Select your business name. Comply with the business entity laws of the state, county and city where your business is located. Register your business and obtain a tax identification number from your state. Exporting requirements and restrictions vary from country to country. For example, the U.S. bans or sanctions the export of many goods to countries it has a political conflict with, such as Iran and North Korea. Contact the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security for licensing requirements and information on exporting restrictions. For information on the rules other countries have regarding exported U.S. goods, go to You will find the specific requirements for establishing a linen export business in your chosen market.


Set up your office space. A small space in your home, specifically set up for your business, is efficient and cost effective. Start simply with a phone line with voice messaging capabilities, a filing system, business cards and company letterhead. Add additional equipment, such as a printer, copier and fax, as your company grows and doing so makes financial sense. You do not need to absorb the cost of a warehouse or additional employees if you have the linen products shipped directly from your supplier to your buyer's warehouse.


Create a company website. Include information about your linen company, clearly stating what you do and outlining your company mission. Provide specific product information, including photographs, descriptions, colors offered and prices of individual products. Set up a contact page that includes your mailing address, phone numbers, fax number and email information; as well as a contact form that lets customers email you directly from your site.


Find the right market for your linens., in collaboration with the Department of Commerce, helps provide global matchmaking for exporters and global buyers. The Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA), an export trade development association, provides "new exporter" information such as helping you locate and choose export agents, export management companies (EMCs) and export trading companies (ETCs). The American Association of Exporters and Importers, a trade association, offers its members current information, education and training on different topics of global exporting and serves as an advocate for the exporting/importing industry.


Contact several wholesale linen suppliers and compare their prices to determine your choice of supplier. Start with local suppliers, if possible. Find additional potential suppliers through the Organic Trade Association and Open Directory Project online. As a new business, estimating sales volume is difficult because you have no history. However, you can research industry trade journals or search online for average annual sales volume of linen exporters. Check the U.S. Census Bureau foreign trade data to find sales and pricing information of established export businesses that are close in size to yours. Finally, establish your prices based on your cost of wholesale goods, your estimate of anticipated sales volume, and profit margins of 10% to 20%. Price your product high enough that you turn a profit but not so high the price exceeds what the customer is willing to pay.


Establish an export agent in your target markets to facilitate transactions and act as a middleman between you and potential foreign customers. Go to to find information on trade leads in your target markets. Contact officials there to find screened leads through embassies and consulates. Plan on paying a commission for an export agent’s work.


Ship your linens through a global freight forwarder, such as DHL. Look online for freight forwarders and contact several to obtain shipping specifics for your business. Freight forwarding services handle the logistics of international shipping, making your job a little easier.