16 Shipping Container Business Ideas

shipping container business ideas

If you are looking for a business investment that can be modular, comes with relatively low running costs, and has a compact work space perhaps you should consider opening a shipping container business.

In times of economic uncertainty starting a shipping container business can be an ideal venture where you can get your business up and running. with little cash outlay in terms of construction project costs and capitalizing on new architectural innovation, your business will have more flexibility and an edge over the competition.

What is a Shipping Container Business?

Shipping container businesses are business operations that are highly sustainable and budget-friendly construction solutions. They are eco-friendly, versatile, sturdy, and made with an industrial-grade steel exterior that can withstand even the most severe weather conditions. They provide plenty of business opportunities for small space businesses and start-ups by offering efficient dimensions and square footage. They can also be easily customized and stacked to create just about any sort of design, layout, and size imaginable. They can be used as either temporary, semi-permanent, or permanent structures for almost any business need or even residential structures.



The Business of Shipping Containers

By investing in a shipping container, you significantly cut costs on your construction. The costs that come for brick, mortar, wood, labor, and other expenditure. Shipping containers provide easy customization options and the opportunity to run your own business without incurring high construction costs. With containers, you can easily take down walls, install windows and doors, add air conditioners, and even add lighting. They also come with options to transport wherever you need and can be modified to take whatever shape as you can stack them up or assemble them side by side. You are only limited by your imagination.

Our Methodology for Choosing Shipping Container Business Ideas that Can Appeal to Entrepreneurs

When it comes to choosing the right business idea involving shipping containers, there are several key criteria to consider. We’ll rate these criteria on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest importance and 1 being the lowest:

  • Market Demand (Rating: 5): Assess the demand for services or products related to shipping containers in your chosen niche. Strong demand is essential for a successful business.
  • Innovation and Uniqueness (Rating: 5): Emphasize the innovation and uniqueness of your shipping container business idea. Stand out in the market with a distinctive offering.
  • Feasibility (Rating: 4): Evaluate the practicality and feasibility of implementing your shipping container business, considering factors like location, resources, and logistics.
  • Budget and Investment (Rating: 4): Determine the budget required to start and run your shipping container business, including container purchase or modification costs.
  • Sustainability (Rating: 4): Consider the sustainability of your shipping container business, both environmentally and financially, over the long term.
  • Market Analysis (Rating: 3): Conduct thorough market research to understand the competition, pricing, and trends within the shipping container industry.
  • Regulatory Compliance (Rating: 3): Ensure that your shipping container business complies with all relevant regulations and permits, especially if you plan to modify containers.
  • Customer Engagement (Rating: 3): Plan for excellent customer engagement and support, as it can lead to repeat business and referrals.
  • Technology Integration (Rating: 2): Incorporate technology solutions that enhance your shipping container business operations, such as inventory management systems.
  • Marketing and Promotion (Rating: 2): Develop effective marketing strategies and branding to promote your shipping container services or products.

Best Shipping Container Business Ideas

There really are no limits to what sorts of businesses you can run with a shipping container office without the headache of a long-term lease.  If you’ve ever aspired to start a business in a shipping container, these shipping container business ideas may just inspire you to take the next step. 

1. Coffee Shop

A coffee shop can be a fun and popular way to make money with a shipping container.  Opening up your unique coffee shop in foot traffic-heavy locations can help you capture a good customer base within your local community as you offer them the opportunity to get their favorite brew while on the move.  You can also alter the coffee shop to be either permanent or make it mobile so that you can change locations.

Shipping Container Business Ideas

2. Storage Facility

You could convert storage containers into storage facilities and generate some income by tapping into some seasonal business. By offering storage facilities for a fee, you can offer your services to people who do not have enough space in their homes to store their furniture, holiday decorations, appliances, documents, memorabilia, clothing, and other items.

3. Shipping Container Homes

Shipping containers can also be converted into homes. There is a huge market among homeowners looking for homes with lower construction and maintenance costs. Shipping containers generally come in 10ft, 20ft, and 40ft sizes and come with prefabricated modular units that make construction time much shorter.

4. Art Gallery

If you are in the fine art business opening a shipping container gallery can be something to look into. Shipping containers can make ideal pop-up galleries as they are not only easy to move around, but can be easily modified, and offer cost savings compared to traditional buildings.

5. Office Space

Finding affordable office space can be hard, especially in areas where renting office space is expensive. You can slim down your office rent costs or even rent out office space in your empty shipping containers. Due to their compact size, shipping containers can fit in literally anywhere from parking lots, venues, or even a more open outdoor area like next to warehouses. They also come with options to transport your workspace wherever you need and can be modified to take whatever shape your office space requires.

Shipping Container Business Ideas

6. Dog Grooming Service

A shipping container offers the right size for you to set up a dog grooming service. Thanks to its compact size you can easily store your dog grooming equipment. Interestingly the dog grooming business is big and is estimated at about $8 billion in the US with around 130,000 grooming businesses employing some 230,000 employees. You can operate out of your fixed location or run a mobile grooming business.

7. Yoga Studio

If you are a good yoga instructor you can offer yoga classes from the comfort of your storage container. Because shipping containers come relatively cheap you can start your yoga studio business on a shoestring and encourage repeat customers.

8. Solar Powered Hostel

There is a growing environmentally conscious customer segment, a solar-powered hostel will not only help to satisfy the demand for an eco-friendly living but also offers an off-the-grid option as well. This comes in handy during the summer when people are looking for cozy, insulated recycled shipping containers on campsites or even at festivals.

Shipping Container Business Ideas

9. Small Gym

Smaller personal gyms or even CrossFit gyms are all the rage these days. People are always looking for a quick workout that is in a convenient location while also offering them their own personal space to work out. A converted shipping container gym can be a great small business idea offering a mobile and affordable option.

10. Nail Salon

Having a nail or hair salon in a converted shipping container offers rich rewards. Using repurposed shipping containers can be a great start-up option as you can start your nail salon by helping to store your equipment and run your low-cost business with minimal staff.

11. Pop-Up Shop

You can use shipping containers for pop-up shops to sell your unique products and services where your customers gather in events, parks, or any other outdoor venues. Pop-up stores are for retailers interested in getting their online store products in front of people for a low overhead cost and connecting with new customers.

Shipping Container Business Ideas

12. Event Space

There is a growing demand by companies to rent out shipping containers for events such as concerts, trade fairs, and other events. They could help showcase your marketing collateral, samples, freebies, products, and services to vising attendees.

13. Restaurant

If you are in the catering business or want to try your hand at a food business with an intimate setting indoors as well as outdoors. A converted shipping container restaurant can get you started. Not only will a shipping container easily accommodate small dinners like your kitchen equipment but take you on the road to cater to customers at a shopping center or other venues. If you are looking for inspiration for ideas on what type of food business you want to invest in, check out all of these ideas.



14.  Gift shop

A shipping container can be a good outlet for impulse buying to sell antiques, gifts, sweets, and more. You can design your gift shop with various shelving and display cases, and customized doors that open up to allow you to easily display items to attract customers. You can even plant yourself at an ideal spot, or be mobile so you can arrange to move from site to site throughout the peak tourist season.

15. Florist Shop

If you are into gardening, you can start your own cost-effective flower stand and florist store with a converted shipping container. You can use the shipping container to go directly to where people congregate offering a convenient and accessible shopping experience on the fly. These containers are highly suitable for growing plants offering consistent temperature and humidity conditions as they are capable of withstanding extreme weather and temperatures.

16. Book Store

Book stores can be a perfect shipping container business idea as it offers plenty of space for shelves filled with best seller books or rare edition prints. With your refurbished container you can allow people to easily browse titles and even borrow books.

If you are looking for more small business ideas checkout out our article on Small Business Ideas for Beginners.

Innovative Ventures with Shipping Containers

Embracing the possibilities of a shipping container business opens doors to a realm of innovative and adaptable entrepreneurial ventures. The modular nature, cost-effective setup, and compact footprint of shipping containers make them an attractive choice for various businesses, especially in times of economic uncertainty. This conclusion underscores the potential and diverse range of shipping container business opportunities:

  • A Green Revolution: Shipping container businesses epitomize sustainability and budget-friendliness. With an industrial-grade steel exterior that withstands harsh weather, these structures provide eco-friendly solutions while offering countless possibilities for small space enterprises and startups.
  • Economic Advantage: By leveraging shipping containers, you substantially reduce traditional construction costs. This includes expenses related to labor, materials, and facilities. Customizable and easily adaptable, containers enable business launches with minimal upfront investment.
  • Endless Potential: The versatility of shipping container businesses knows no bounds. Whether it’s a trendy coffee shop, a flexible storage facility, innovative shipping container homes, pop-up galleries, or even a unique yoga studio, the potential business ideas are bound only by imagination.
  • Realizing Vision: Shipping containers offer a canvas for entrepreneurs to translate their ideas into reality. With the ability to dismantle walls, install amenities, and modify the container’s shape, businesses can be tailored precisely to meet market needs.
  • Catering to Demands: These adaptable spaces find resonance in modern lifestyle demands. From solar-powered hostels appealing to eco-conscious travelers to compact gyms, nail salons, and pop-up shops that serve convenience seekers, shipping container businesses are poised to cater to evolving trends.
  • Diverse Market Reach: From retail to hospitality, every sector can find innovative uses for shipping containers. Whether it’s hosting events, housing restaurants, or running florist shops, these structures serve as efficient spaces to connect with customers and clients.
Green RevolutionShipping container businesses stand as a symbol of sustainability and affordability. Crafted from industrial-grade steel capable of enduring harsh weather, these structures provide environmentally friendly solutions and offer myriad possibilities for startups and small-space enterprises.
Economic AdvantageLeveraging shipping containers dramatically reduces conventional construction expenses. These savings encompass labor, materials, and facilities costs. The containers' adaptability and customization potential facilitate cost-effective business launches, minimizing initial investments.
Endless PotentialShipping container businesses embody boundless versatility. From chic coffee shops and versatile storage facilities to groundbreaking container homes, pop-up galleries, and even unique yoga studios, the range of potential business concepts is limited only by imagination.
Realizing VisionShipping containers serve as blank canvases for entrepreneurs to manifest their visions. With the capacity to reconfigure walls, install amenities, and alter the container's shape, businesses can be finely tailored to address specific market needs, resulting in unique and impactful offerings.
Catering to DemandsThe adaptability of these spaces resonates with contemporary lifestyle demands. From eco-conscious solar-powered hostels for travelers to compact gyms, nail salons, and pop-up shops catering to convenience-seeking consumers, shipping container businesses are well-positioned to cater to evolving trends and cater to diverse customer needs.
Diverse Market ReachShipping containers find utility across a spectrum of industries, spanning retail to hospitality. Their potential applications are vast, encompassing event hosting, restaurant spaces, and even florist shops. These structures offer efficient and effective spaces to engage with customers and clients, making them versatile assets across various business sectors.

As you embark on the journey of establishing a shipping container business, recognize the limitless potential that these structures offer. They not only align with budget constraints but also provide an avenue for originality and resourceful entrepreneurship. The world of shipping container businesses is brimming with opportunities waiting to be explored, reshaping the entrepreneurial landscape in exciting and sustainable ways.

Image: Envato Elements

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Samson Haileyesus Samson Haileyesus is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 5 years. He has several years of progressive experience in media, communication and PR working with government, NGOs and private sector.