How to Start a Shipping Business | Step-by-step Guide

How To Start A Shipping Business
How to Start a Shipping Business

Establishing a shipping company may be a profitable and thrilling endeavor in a world where international trade and e-commerce are booming. 


Imagine leading the charge in bridging the gap between people and companies on continents, enabling the flow of goods that drive economies and satisfy needs. 

The logistics sector is constantly changing, necessitating creative solutions to keep up with the increasing need for effective transportation services. 


If you’ve been thinking about leaping into entrepreneurship, starting your own shipping company could be the ideal way for you to take advantage of this exciting and fast-paced industry.

This post will function as your all-inclusive manual for launching a shipping company from the ground up, covering everything from figuring out the legal requirements and market conditions to forming alliances with carriers and streamlining your supply chain processes. 

We will guide you through the crucial step-by-step guide on How to Start a Shipping Business, whether it is running a local courier service or operating an international freight forwarding business.

Is Shipping Business Worth it in Nigeria? 

Nigeria’s maritime industry offers a variety of opportunities and challenges. The industry suffers from inefficiencies, corruption, and inadequate infrastructure despite the nation’s advantageous geographic location for trade. 


Positive advances are being driven, meanwhile, by recent initiatives to enhance port operations and expedite customs procedures.

The rising need for logistics services in Nigeria as a result of the country’s developing economy and rising levels of international trade is an important factor to take into account. 

Astute businesspeople now have the chance to take advantage of this and enter the transportation sector by utilizing technology to provide effective solutions. 

Additionally, the shipping industry in Nigeria has the potential to be profitable in the long run with careful planning and knowledge of the regulatory environment.

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Step-by-step Guide on How to Start a Shipping Business

To start a shipping Business in Nigeria, there are step-by-step guidelines to follow. Let’s walk you through the journey:

1. Define your niche:

When launching a shipping company, defining your specialization is essential because it establishes the framework for the whole enterprise. This is a clear breakdown of this step:

Determining Who Your Target Market Is:

Before getting too involved in the shipping details, you must ascertain who your target market will be. Will you serve companies in need of frequent shipping services, people wishing to send small products, or a particular industry with particular shipping needs?

For instance, you may decide to focus on e-commerce companies that need dependable and affordable shipping options for their goods.

Services Provided:

After identifying your target market, you must decide what kind of services you will provide to fit their wants. A few examples of these would be standard package pickup and delivery services for individuals, freight forwarding for companies that ship large amounts of cargo, international shipping for businesses that want to grow internationally, or specialty services like temperature-controlled transport for the food or pharmaceutical industries.

Read ALSO: List Of The Best Shipping Companies in Nigeria

Company Structure:

The next step is to choose the business strategy that will work best for your shipping company. Will you launch a standalone brick-and-mortar store, create an online platform for expedited shipping services, open a franchise of an established shipping company, or maybe a mix of these strategies? 

Selecting the option that best fits your resources, experience, and long-term objectives is crucial because each has pros and cons of its own.

If you use an online platform, for instance, you can use technology to minimize overhead costs related to physical stores and provide a variety of clients with simple shipping options. 

However, starting a franchise could come with the support of an established business strategy and a well-known brand, but it might also come with a hefty initial cost and continuous royalties.

2. Create a Business Plan:

Another step in How to Start a Shipping Business is by creating a business plan. Let’s take an example where your company is called Shipping Solutions, Inc. Having a business plan entails the following:

Executive Summary

Make a concise plan summary. As an illustration, Shipping Solutions, Inc. seeks to offer complete shipping services customized to the requirements of Greater Metropolitan Area e-commerce enterprises. 

Through the utilization of cutting-edge technology, tactical alliances, and first-rate customer support, our goal is to establish ourselves as the preferred shipping partner for companies looking for dependable, economical, and effective logistics solutions.

Market research:

If you are a shipping firm, small to medium-sized e-commerce companies in the Greater Metropolitan Area should be the majority of your target market. Determine that these companies are experiencing an increase in demand for expedited shipping services due to the e-commerce industry’s explosive growth and the increased demand for dependable and quick order fulfillment.

Estimates of Finance:

Before starting a shipping business as a private limited liability company in Nigeria, you must have up to N100,000.00 (Hundred Thousand Naira).

On the other hand, if your company is a public limited liability company, N2,000,000.00 as a share capital. However, the minimum share capital of a shipping company in Nigeria is N25,000,000.00 (Twenty-Five Million Naira). 

And to have the national carrier status, your compnay’s share capital must be N100,000,000.00 (Hundred Million) and above.

Revenue Streams:

  • Package pickup and drop-off fees
  • Freight forwarding services
  • International shipping rates
  • Additional charges for specialized services (e.g., temperature-controlled transport)
  • Subscription-based shipping plans for regular customers

4. Advertising Plan:

Put the following marketing techniques into practice to connect with our target market and set yourselves apart:

  • Digital marketing: Use social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and targeted online advertising to raise brand awareness and draw in new clients.
  • Content marketing: Produce interesting and educational content for our audience, such as infographics, films, and blog entries, to demonstrate our industry knowledge in the shipping sector.
  • Strategic Alliances: Work together with fulfillment facilities, e-commerce platforms, and industry leaders to broaden our consumer base and reach new markets.
  • Customer Referral Program: Via a referral program that offers discounts or prizes for successful recommendations, encourage current clients to recommend new companies to you.

Read ALSO: Best Shipping Companies in Lagos

3.  Secure funding:

Securing funds is the next step on how to start a shipping business. Obtaining cash is an essential first step in launching a shipping company since it gives you the money you need for expansion plans, operating expenditures, and beginning charges.

Please review the following steps to help you secure funding for your shipping business:

1. Analyze the initial costs:

Evaluating your startup costs is the first step in obtaining capital for your shipping company. This covers costs for things like buying or leasing cars, getting the tools you need (like packing materials and shipping containers), setting up an actual location or office, getting the necessary permissions and licenses, and investing in technology infrastructure (like tracking systems and shipping software).

2. Calculate Your Operating Costs:

You must ascertain your continuous running costs, which include payroll, fuel, maintenance, insurance, marketing, and administrative charges, in addition to your initial expenditures. You can estimate your cash flow demands and funding requirements by calculating your operating expenses on a monthly or annual basis.

3. Examine Your Financing Options:

You can investigate several funding sources to finance your shipping firm if you have a clear picture of your starting and operating costs. Typical funding sources consist of:

Bootstrapping and Personal Savings: Paying for launch costs and ongoing running expenditures with your own money and personal savings.

Small business loans: 

Requesting loans from banks, credit unions, or internet lenders to fund projects for expansion, operating capital, and the purchase of vehicles and equipment. Small business loans might include collateral requirements, payback lengths that range from a few months to several years, and fixed or variable interest rates.


Seeking funding for startup expenses, growth initiatives, and expansion plans from angel investors, venture capitalists, or private equity firms. Depending on your company’s stage and growth prospects, investors may provide funds in exchange for convertible debt or stock ownership.

Government Programs and Grants: 

Looking into government programs, grants, and subsidies that small companies in the shipping and logistics sector can take advantage of. Initiatives for government funding may offer businesses and entrepreneurs help, training, and money.


Starting a campaign on websites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to collect money from a lot of people in return for gifts, first dibs on products, or shares of ownership in your company.

Create a financing Plan: 

Following the identification of possible financing sources, you must create a thorough funding plan that details the amount of capital you require, your intended use of the funds, and the possible advantages or returns for lenders or investors. Financial estimates, cash flow forecasts, and payback conditions should all be included in your funding plan to show how profitable and viable your shipping company is.

Apply for Loans or Pitch Investors

Depending on the funding sources you’ve found, you’ll need to get ready to submit a strong business plan or pitch to lenders, investors, or other financial organizations. 

Your pitch should emphasize your shipping company’s distinct value offering, market opportunity, competitive advantages, room for expansion, and possible return on investment for stakeholders. 

To apply for a loan, you must submit an application and any necessary supporting documentation, including credit reports, business plans, and financial records.

Negotiate Terms and Secure Funding: 

You’ll need to settle funding agreements and negotiate terms after attracting investor interest or receiving loan offers. 

Negotiating equity stakes, interest rates, payback plans, collateral requirements, and other terms and conditions may be necessary for this. 

After the terms are finalized, you can move forward with obtaining money and starting your shipping company.

4.  Register your business:

To create your shipping company as a legal organization and guarantee that it complies with regulations, you must register it. This entails several crucial stages. A description of each part is provided below:

Select a Business Structure: 

Selecting an appropriate business structure is the first stage in registering your shipping company. Typical choices consist of:

  • The simplest and most typical business structure for small firms is the sole proprietorship. One person owns and runs the company, and that person is solely responsible for all debts and liabilities.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC gives its owners, also referred to as members, limited liability protection while maintaining the freedom of a sole proprietorship. This indicates that the personal assets of members are typically shielded from business obligations.
  • Corporation: Shareholders own corporations, which are independent legal entities. Compared to other corporate forms, they provide shareholders with limited liability protection, but they also come with more complicated rules and requirements.
  • A partnership is an arrangement in which two or more people share management and ownership duties. There are two types of partnerships: limited partnerships, in which certain participants have limited liability, and general partnerships, in which all partners share equal obligations.
  • Select a business structure that takes into account your tax situation, risk tolerance, and business objectives. Seek advice from financial and legal experts to ascertain the best course of action for your shipping company.

Acquire the Required Licenses and Permits: 

Obtaining different licenses and permits to operate legally may be necessary, depending on your area and the type of shipping services you offer. Typical licenses and permissions for shipping companies could be:

  • Business License: In most cases, to conduct any kind of business inside a certain jurisdiction, a general business license is necessary. To find out what permits your shipping company needs, contact your local government or business regulatory body.
  • Transportation License: Regulatory bodies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) may grant special transportation licenses or permits if you plan to transport goods across state lines or internationally.
  • Hazardous Goods Permit: To guarantee adherence to safety standards, you could require specific permissions and certifications if you want to ship hazardous goods, chemicals, or other substances.
  • Zoning Permits: Verify that the site of your company complies with local zoning laws and acquire any licenses required for the property’s commercial usage.

To prevent future fines, penalties, or legal problems, find out what licensing and permitting requirements apply in your area and make sure your shipping company complies with all applicable laws.

Obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assigns a unique nine-digit number called an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also called a Federal Tax Identification Number, to identify your business for tax purposes. 

If you do business as anything other than a single proprietorship, you must obtain an EIN even if you are an employer without workers. The IRS website offers a free online application for an EIN.

By obtaining an EIN, you can:

  • Create a bank account for your business.
  • Request permissions and licenses for your business.
  • Pay taxes and file tax returns.
  • Build your company’s reputation

You may start conducting business lawfully and concentrate on developing and expanding your shipping services once you have registered your company and acquired all required licenses, permits, and tax identification numbers.

5.  Set up operations:

Establishing your shipping company’s operations requires several crucial actions to guarantee effectiveness, dependability, and client happiness. Here’s how to set up your business efficiently:

Secure a facility: 

You may need to secure a physical facility, operate entirely online, or use a hybrid strategy, depending on your business model and target market.

Take into account elements like ease of access, closeness to shipping companies, inventory storage space, and capacity for shipping and receiving. If you decide to conduct business online, make sure your website or e-commerce platform is mobile-friendly, secure, and easy to use.

Invest in necessary supplies and equipment to make your shipping operations run more smoothly. This could consist of:

  • Packing supplies: to safely package and safeguard shipments, use boxes, envelopes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, tape, and labels.
  • Scales: Precise scales to measure parcels and compute postage expenses according to mass and size.
  • Printers: Top-notch printers for printing invoices, packing slips, shipping labels, and other paperwork.
  • Shipping Software: To expedite order processing, track shipments, manage inventory, and provide reports, make use of shipping software and management solutions. ShipStation, ShipWorks, and Shippo are a few of the well-known shipping software choices.

Form Partnerships with Shipping Carriers:

To obtain affordable shipping costs, dependable delivery services, and an extensive selection of shipping alternatives, form partnerships with prominent shipping carriers like UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, and regional carriers. To find the best fit for your company’s demands and those of your customers, research carrier services, pricing policies, and delivery schedules. If at all possible, negotiate contracts or bulk discounts to maximize your shipping margins and costs.

Purchase Tools and Software for Shipping: 

To automate and optimize your shipping procedures, use management tools and shipping software. You can benefit from these tools:

  • Orders from your marketplace or e-commerce platform can be imported.
  • Examine the offerings and costs of shipping from several carriers.
  • Track shipments in real time and print shipping labels.
  • Produce compliance reports, shipping manifests, and customs paperwork.
  • Effectively handle customer inquiries, swaps, and returns.
  • Examine performance indicators and shipment data to find areas that can be improved and expenses reduced.

You can create a dependable and effective shipping process that satisfies client demands and fosters the expansion and success of your shipping company by organizing operations well and making the appropriate investments in equipment and materials.

Read ALSO: How to Start a Farming Business in Nigeria (Golden Tips)

6.  Marketing and customer acquisition:

When launching a shipping company, marketing and customer acquisition are essential since they promote revenue growth, brand exposure, and customer attraction and retention. Here’s how to successfully approach customer acquisition and marketing:

Determine Your Target Audience: 

To start, decide which parts of the market you want to focus on, such as individuals, companies, or niche markets that could profit from your shipping services. To focus on a more specific group of people, take into account variables like shopping patterns, shipping requirements, demographics, and geographic location.

Create a Unique Value Proposition: 

Clearly state the advantages and benefits that distinguish your shipping company from the competition in your unique value proposition. This could involve elements like prompt delivery, affordable prices, dependable service, individualized customer care, or unique shipping options.

Formulate a Marketing Strategy: 

Formulate a thorough marketing plan that delineates your approach to reaching and interacting with your intended audience. To increase your reach and impact, take into account combining offline and internet marketing methods. A shipping company may find that the following are some efficient marketing avenues:

  • Website and Online Presence: Create a polished website that highlights your shipping capabilities, available delivery methods, and client endorsements. Improve your website’s visibility and draw in organic traffic by making it search engine friendly (SEO).
  • Content marketing: Write interesting and educational content, such as case studies, blog posts, articles, videos, and infographics, that addresses typical shipping issues, offers practical advice, and demonstrates your industry knowledge.
  • Social media marketing: Connect with your audience on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Share pertinent content, advertise special offers, and have conversations with potential clients.
  • Email marketing: To stay in the forefront of your audience’s minds and foster relationships, create an email list of subscribers and send out newsletters, special offers, product updates, and customer surveys regularly.
  • Paid Advertising: To target particular demographics, interests, and geographic areas with your marketing messages, think about investing in paid advertising channels like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and sponsored content.

Provide Promotions and Incentives: 

Provide exclusive deals, discounts, loyalty plans, awards for referrals, and free shipping incentives to draw in new clients and encourage recurring business. Urge happy clients to tell others about their wonderful experiences and to suggest your services to friends, relatives, and coworkers.

Deliver Outstanding Customer Service: 

At each stage of the customer experience, from the first inquiry and order placing to the shipment tracking, delivery confirmation, and post-purchase assistance, provide outstanding customer service. Be proactive, upfront, and responsive in your communications, and make it a point to go above and above for your clients at every turn.

Read ALSO: Wealth Management Companies in Nigeria 

Starting a shipping firm requires careful navigation of important milestones, including compliance and legal considerations. This is one of the steps on how to start a shipping business.

Respecting the rules established by regulatory organizations is essential to avoiding severe fines and other legal issues. 

Every element necessitates careful consideration, from acquiring the required licenses and permits to comprehending international commerce regulations.

Furthermore, in the ever-changing world of shipping, it’s imperative to be informed about new rules. The intricacies of international trade highlight the necessity of having a solid understanding of import/export regulations, sanctions, and customs procedures. 

Early legal expert involvement can yield important insights into risk mitigation and smooth operations within legal boundaries. In the end, putting compliance first can help protect your company and build stakeholder trust in a more regulated sector.

What are Some Common Challenges faced by Shipping Businesses?

The constantly shifting laws and compliance standards are one issue that shipping companies frequently deal with. Companies have to traverse a complicated web of laws to make sure they are functioning lawfully, as there are various rules for shipping domestically and internationally.

Smaller companies may find this more difficult since they lack specialized legal teams or the means to keep up with changes in regulations.

The need to efficiently manage expenses and maintain strict delivery schedules is a major challenge for transportation businesses.

Growing client requests for expedited shipping choices may put pressure on logistics operations, raising costs and sometimes delaying deliveries. The perpetual task of striking a balance between speed and cost-efficiency calls for smart supply chain management and strategic planning.

Furthermore, shipping companies face a great deal of difficulty when unanticipated events like natural catastrophes or political unrest disrupt global supply lines.

These hiccups may cause delays, higher expenses, and trouble locating necessary supplies or goods. Businesses must have backup plans in place to reduce these risks and guarantee operations even in unpredictable times.

FAQs on How to Start a Shipping Business

1. What are the legal requirements to start a shipping business?

Answer: You will need to register your business, obtain necessary licenses and permits, and comply with shipping regulations.

2. How much capital is needed to start a shipping business?

Answer: The initial capital required can vary, but it’s recommended to have enough funds for vehicles, equipment, insurance, and operating costs.

3. What types of services can a shipping business offer?

Answer: Shipping businesses can provide services such as package delivery, freight transport, logistics solutions, and more.

4. Do I need to invest in technology for my shipping business?

Answer: Yes, investing in tracking systems, inventory management software, and communication tools can help streamline operations and improve efficiency.

Read ALSO: Money Making Agricultural Business Ideas


For entrepreneurs wishing to break into the logistics sector, launching a shipping company might be a lucrative endeavor. You can establish a strong foundation for success by adhering to the procedures described in this article, which include carrying out in-depth market research, acquiring the required permits and licenses, organizing your business correctly, and effectively selling your services. 

Recall that the ability to persevere and adapt are essential qualities for overcoming the difficulties in this cutthroat industry. You can build a successful shipping company that pleases clients and increases revenue with commitment and thoughtful preparation. 

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