50 Small Businesses to Start in a Shipping Container – Seriously!

shipping container business ideas

Due to high construction costs and new innovations in architecture, more and more companies are turning to non-traditional facilities to house their business operations. Shipping containers in particular can be very utilitarian and cost effective.

Shipping Container Business Ideas

Here are some ideas for businesses that can work well in this type of space.

Clothing Retailer

Shipping containers can provide the space you need to run any kind of small retail business, like a clothing boutique. If you need more space, you can even stack them, like AETHER in San Francisco as seen above.

Gift Shop

Another type of small retail business, a gift shop can also be a perfect idea for a shipping container business, since the format could serve as an interesting attention getter for tourists.

Antique Sales

You could also open up a small antique store or refinishing space where you sell anything from furniture to collectibles.

Pop-up Shop

Perhaps you want to simply allow other businesses to use your space for special sales, holidays, or events. You could open up a pop-up location in a shipping container.

Shopping Mall

You might even consider setting up multiple shipping containers in a single area and working with multiple shops and other businesses to rent out the space.

Workshop Space

If you have a creative skill or thing to teach a small group of people, use a shipping container to serve as your workshop space.

Art Gallery

50 Shipping Container Business Ideas

You could even use it as a gallery space to display your own artwork or those from others in the community. Photoville is an event in Brooklyn that has made use of shipping containers for this purpose.

Book Shop

Bookshops are popular with tourists and event participants. And since books don’t take up too much space, this is another retail concept that can work in a shipping container.

Ecommerce Business

You can also simply use your shipping container as an office and storage facility to run an online shop.


Use your shipping container as a small space to create flower arrangements, and set up somewhere where you can grow flowers or other plants right outside.

Farmers Market

Farmers markets are often held outdoors. But you could set up a series of shipping containers to provide a bit of extra shade and protection from the elements.

Equipment Rentals

You could also use it as a space to store and arrange the rental of equipment, ranging from tools for nearby homeowners to surf gear if you’re set up near a coast.


50 Shipping Container Business Ideas

Smoky Park Supper Club in North Carolina has actually built around its initial shipping container model and become a destination in the area.

Meal Prep Service

Another type of food business, you could use the small space you have to create prepared meals that you can sell directly to consumers.

Event Venue

You might also use the space as an area that customers can rent out for small dinners or parties.


Or you could set up a small shop full of baked goods that people can purchase or enjoy at some small tables.

Coffee Shop

The space could also be used as a coffee shop or cafe where you serve a variety of beverage options.

Tasting Room

For a more events focused business, you could use the space as a tasting room and bring in different local beer, wine, or other drink options.


50 Shipping Container Business Ideas

With a bar, a shipping container concept gives you the opportunity to build a small and intimate setting indoors and a more open outdoor area as well. The Gulf in Alabama is one example of this.


You could even distill your own drinks in the space to create a more unique feel and menu.

Visitor’s Center

If you want to create a business that attracts tourists in your area, you could set up a shipping container as a small space that people can visit to find information.

Tour Guide Company

Or you could use it as the home base for a tour guide company, where your guides and visitors can leave from to view different parts of the area.


For a more outdoorsy vibe, you could use it as the office of a campground.


Or you could set up multiple containers that people can actually stay in when they travel.

Tiny Home Community

Similarly, you could make each container into an actual home space and then rent them out to long-term tenants.

Hair Salon

Simple, one-on-one service businesses can also work in shipping containers. You could use the space to set up a small hair salon.

Nail Salon

Or you could choose a similar focus, like offering manicures and pedicures.


50 Shipping Container Business Ideas

You could even offer a more well rounded group of services by opening up a spa in a shipping container, similar to what SOAK did in San Francisco.

Massage Therapy Service

Massage therapy is another type of service that can work well in a small space like a shipping container.

Soap Maker

A storage container can also serve as a place where you can make small products to sell, like bath and body products.

Candle Maker

Similarly, you can use it to make candles or other small home goods.

Ceramics Shop

Or you could set up a shop where you make ceramic dishes and other products out of clay.


It could also serve as a small wood shop where you make or refinish wood products.

Metal Sculpting

Similarly, you could use the space to make metal products or work with custom metalwork.

Etsy Seller

You can also set up an ecommerce shop on a platform like Etsy where you can sell your handmade items.

Alterations Service

If you’re able to sew and measure effectively, you can start an alterations business where people bring or send in their clothing.

Dog Grooming Service

A shipping container is also about the right size for you to set up some small dog grooming equipment.


An architect could also use a shipping container as an office space, which could also serve as a way to show off a unique architectural style.

Bicycle Repair Shop

Bicycle repair is also a service that only takes up a bit of room.

Firewood Sales

A shipping container can also work for storing or processing products you might not want to bring indoors, like firewood.

Recycling Service

Or you could start a recycling service and use a shipping container as a space to organize everything.

Computer Repair Service

Computer repair can be done in a small space, but it does help to have a location where people can bring in their devices.

Tech Refurbishing Business

Or you could use the space to work on refurbishing smartphones and other tech products that you can later sell.

Tutoring Service

A shipping container can also work as a home base for one-on-one or small group tutoring sessions.

Personal Training Service

You could even set up a small gym or workout facility and work with personal training clients there.

Yoga Studio

50 Shipping Container Business Ideas

Or you could offer small classes, like Danyasa does with yoga in Costa Rica.

Music Lesson Service

Another subject that lends itself to one-on-one sessions or small group lessons, you could teach piano, voice, or another musical instrument.

Business Coach

You could also use the container as an office space where you meet with clients, even if you run a B2B business.

Storage Facility

Since storage containers are most commonly associated with storing items, you could also set them up to use in that capacity as a self storage business.

Office Building

Or you could set up multiple containers and offer them as space that businesses in the area can rent out.

Related reading: 51 Business Ideas for 2020

Top Image: AETHER

More in: , 13 Comments ▼

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

13 Reactions
  1. But it is all about having a shipping container to begin with. It is nice to know that there are just so many possibilities.

  2. Annie: How do you get hold of a container? Do you rent it? I have seen these “metal and mortar” businesses popping up around in different places in Gothenburg city. I know you have special markets in London with several containers in one place.

  3. Hi Annie,
    Oh My What An Idea!
    It’s really an interesting and Intelligent idea!
    Using Containers for multipurpose businesses!
    For starters, this is the best option a 40′ container will do the trick.
    Oh, my so many options you shared in this post.
    Thanks, Stillwagon for sharing it here.
    Best Regards
    I found this post curated on the pages of BizSugar platform and I up-voted it and dropped a comment. 🙂

  4. This is now trending for today. I even saw one motel constructed out of container and is now operational for 3 months time and the owner testifies of great ROI.

  5. I love this article. It is so fun to see all of the different possibilities not only of how you can re-use a shipping container, but on how you can build a business from it. It is so fascinating. We at Cherokee West are always looking for innovative ways to re-use shipping containers. If any of your readers are interested in purchasing a container, they can check out our website (www.cherokeewest.com). We sell nationally.

  6. Hi, I have a question as I am very interested in this container option for my salon slash women’s clothing retail. A lot of information is found on the web regarding modifications, purpose, and shipping container sales, but I have had no luck as to determining where this unit could be temporarily or permanently housed or how to go about finding our who has property available for this option via city or private owner. I am in love with this option but cannot even begin to look for a container without a location for it to be housed. Please help

  7. Hi I want to do a shopping complex with Shipping Containers, can u please help me with that

  8. How do they use the bathroom?

  9. Andile Magandela

    Good morning
    I would like to have more information as to how can I get a container for food business. I am in the Eastern Cape Probince, Queenstown South Africa.

  10. Sinethemba Angel Shabalala

    Good day.

    I’d like to know if you can help me open a mini complex that will accommodate a variety of things such as eg retail, saloon, food and braii area etc and I’m based in braamfischerville near roodepoort.

  11. Can you supply containers to Myanmar ?

  12. Malibongwe Mbonyana

    Greetings my name is Malibongwe Mbonyana I live Johhanesburg(East Rand) and want to start a business that will create job opportunities for the youth here and make a difference in my community…all I’m asking for is a shipping container startup to make a very great success out of my entrepreneurial skills and a very bright future for young, enthusiastic and Altra passionate minds of (Tsakane). Your response will give edurence thank you.

No, Thank You