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4 min read

7 Small Business Ideas Riding the Shipping Container Trend

7 Small Business Ideas Riding the Shipping Container Trend

Shipping Container Trend

Reimagine what your small business could become without the crippling cost of construction or property rent. That glorious possibility is a reality with the innovative use of shipping containers. The tiny house movement and sustainable building projects take advantage of these simple receptacles, but the container’s potential extends far beyond these niches. What other businesses can utilize the shipping container and its sustainable simplicity?

1. Food Vendor

Like food trucks and trailers, shipping containers provide the perfect space for distributing meals, treats, and drinks. Building a brick-and-mortar restaurant in a high business area is incredibly expensive. Shipping container restaurants are transportable, allowing them to inhabit hot spots where building permits are impossible to come by. Shipping container kitchens can also tap into the sustainable appeal of their design by offering locally grown foods on the menu and branding the exterior of the container accordingly.

2. Coffee Shop

Millions practice the ritual of grabbing a morning coffee on the commute to work. Coffee shops must be consistently open for business to attract loyal customers, especially on cold or windy days. Shipping containers outclass temporary stalls in this regard because they are sturdy and often large enough to allow customers to stand or sit in a sheltered area. Convenience is also fundamental for a coffee vendor’s success. Building a coffee shop from a shipping container allows entrepreneurs to set up in convenient locations and even move to various hotspots throughout the year. Containers can even be customized with drive-up windows to accommodate customers with quick service during their morning commutes.

3. Bike Mechanic

Many bike shops are intimidating and expensive for amateur cyclists and mountain bikers. Starting a bike mechanic business out of a shipping container takes away the stress of entering a room full of brand-new top-of-the-line bicycles. Shipping containers allow plenty of room for storing bikes, spare parts and a couple of bike hangers. Because shipping containers are relatively small, mechanics can set up shop in the bike trail parking lots. Adding a bike cleaning station and/or bike pump available to the public helps bring in business.

4. Yoga Studio

In many areas, the simple space required for a yoga studio comes at a high price. Shipping containers cut down expenses while also offering total ownership and sometimes even more space! Furthermore, most yoga participants are conscious of sustainable efforts, so the innovative use of a shipping container as a practice space may attract more customers. Shipping containers provide the perfect amount of space for small, private classes. With most shipping containers over 9-feet tall, there is plenty of room to reach for the sky or practice inversions like handstands.

5. Office Space

Finding affordable office space is harder for many start-ups and growing businesses than finding a four-leaf clover. In the bigger cities, office space is available for rent, but costs average well over $10,000 per annum for each employee. In smaller cities and more rural areas, there are generally few if any available office rentals. Shipping containers can fill this gap at an affordable price. The exteriors are easily branded with graphics and the interiors can be customized with work spaces, conference area, and virtually anything. 

Since the pandemic, some organizations have decided to shed office spaces and keep employees remote. For brands that are staying partially virtual, shipping containers offer a great solution: a space to bring customers as needed, a space for employees to occasionally meet and relationship-build, a space for employees to gather for any other work-related purpose, and a space for small company events - all without keeping the costly fees of a typical office space that is no longer in consistent use.

6. Retail or Gift Shop

Whether at the entrance to a national park, downtown in Boston or along the beach in Los Angeles, gift shops can be a big hit. Many of these places have busy seasons, so a less expensive and less permanent facility like a shipping container is ideal for running a gift shop. A shipping container building can be made out of more than one container if you want a larger space. Don’t forget to decorate the outside with custom vinyl signs and large printed photographs of the local scenery or attractions.

Shipping containers also offer a great space for boutiques and other smaller retail stores. Brand the exterior with vibrant graphics that catch the attention of potential shoppers. Build-out the interior with custom shelving and displays, dressing rooms, point of sale kiosks, and even bathrooms. Lower costs allow you to spend more of your resources on marketing and growing your business. You can also easily transport your mobile retail space to various locations where your target demographic frequents. 

7. Seasonal Pop-ups

Firework Stall

The firework industry has a short and explosive market at certain times of the year. The quick setup of a shipping container store is perfect for selling fireworks when demand is hot.

Christmas Tree Vendor

Store the trees in a plot outside the container but make a checkout stall in a shipping container where customers can decide what will suit their setup the best. Savvy distributors might also sell decorations and lighting systems next to the checkout counter.

Haunted House

Scare the hair off your customers by transforming a shipping container or two into a haunted house. Shipping containers are ideal for walkthrough experiences because of their long rectangular shape. On the exterior, use graphic banners to display heart-stopping imagery and dare the brave to enter.

Farmer's Market & Floral Shop

Seasonal floral shops that set up in February or throughout the summer can rake in customers and profits. Shipping containers are ideal for growing and storing flowers, providing a customizable shelter indoors that is less suffocating than a building.

During the spring and summer months when fresh fruit and vegetables are abundant, the public loves to visit farmer's markets to pick out local, organic foods. Containers allow the sellers to easily travel to various locations to expand reach and increase sales, and also provide storage and protection for goods during transport and off-hours. 

All of these ideas are viable shipping container businesses in their own right. Hustling entrepreneurs may design multipurpose shipping containers that cater to changing seasons and customer demand. A gift shop at high tourist season might become an art gallery during the slower months, or a summer ice cream shop might rebrand into a winter hot drink stop. Let your imagination run free with easily customizable, transportable and affordable shipping container designs. What will you make out of your container?

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