Affordable, adaptable and with an average lifespan of 25 years shipping containers can be purchased either as new or used units and are available in a wide range of sizes making them unique and innovative premises from which to run a business.
We’ve compiled some of our favourite shipping container business ideas including examples of companies already utilising shipping containers, as well as some of the benefits of choosing to run your small business from a converted shipping container.
Seaspace International are specialists in a wide range of freight forwarding services, and have been transporting products globally via air, sea and land since 1988. With comprehensive technical knowledge our experts are also available to answer your questions on a consultancy basis.
Small businesses you can start from a shipping container
The aesthetics of your business premises should reflect your brand, it’s location should appeal to your audience, and the cost of the premises must fall within your budget whilst offering the potential for future expansion.
At this stage you’ve more than likely decided what type of business you intend to set up, but in the event that you’re still unsure we’ve put together a list of businesses already successfully utilising shipping and storage containers:
One of the most obvious, and perhaps simplest ideas for a small business based around the use of shipping containers is self storage. Built to withstand extreme weather conditions for extended periods of time, shipping containers are both durable and secure; prerequisites for storage facility premises.
They’re also available in a wide range of sizes, from around 32sqft up to 320sqft per unit and can therefore be used to store all manner of chattel. Simply find some land and suitable containers and you have the makings of a successful storage facility.
From small construction firms to large corporate entities there are a wide range of companies running their business operations from shipping container offices. Cost effective, versatile and easily transportable, a shipping container office space can be used on a temporary or permanent basis, and even offers the potential for innovative architectural design.
Comprising seventeen shipping containers, the Hoonigan Racing Division Headquarters are an excellent example of what can be achieved; an aesthetically pleasing office and communal space which can be easily assembled / disassembled and relocated.
The increasing popularity of the independent coffee shop has seen many brewers and distributors turn to shipping containers in order to create exciting mobile or static spaces for customers, and with prices starting at around £1500 it’s both simple and inexpensive to create a chic coffee house or tea room with a unique feel.
The relocatable Coffee Box Cafe (base shell of a 20” shipping container) has been designed to utilise every square inch of its small space and contains a 3 group coffee machine, cake fridge displays, drinks fridge, serving area along with both food preparation and wash up areas.
Pop up shop
The shipping container pop up shop concept is being championed by big name brands as well as smaller independent businesses; used for everything from the sale of artisan goods to high street fashionwear. With the potential to be placed at any location the shipping container offers an opportunity for companies to cater to a different market, providing a physical space for an online store for example, and has the advantage of being easy to secure when not in use (ideal for a seasonal business that opens for just a few months of the year).
Their mobility and the ease by which they can be adapted and transformed makes shipping containers ideal event spaces; think festivals, gigs and musical events right through to dinner parties, award ceremonies, weddings and other celebrations.
The relocatable ‘Lock Up’, designed and built by Container Conversions DB, spans almost 300sqm and demonstrates the almost endless possibilities of high end shipping container event space.
Whether you’re looking to create, display or sell your own art work, or provide exhibition space for other artists, shipping containers offer the potential for intimate and quirky gallery space. As well as being available for outright purchase it’s also possible to rent a shipping container, a cost effective option if you only intend to use the space for a limited amount of time.
Jewellery, clothing, homeware, cosmetics and tech are just some of the many products available to buy at Boxpark, Shoreditch. Fusing restaurant spaces, pop up shops, retail units and a range of other businesses the location offers shipping container space to ‘the best street food, leisure and retail operators’.
For small business owners shipping containers represent an affordable opportunity to create exciting restaurant spaces, without the high construction costs associated with brick and mortar premises.
Saltbox in Wadebridge, Cornwall is a street food venue operated from a hub of converted shipping containers, ‘a unique collection of independent businesses and talented local chefs.’
The benefits of shipping containers for small businesses
A unique space
No matter the nature of the business you intend to create, a unique space is a distinct advantage when it comes to standing out from the crowd. Their industrial ruggedness and endless potential for transformation makes the shipping container an interesting prospect for any small business owner.
With a little know-how and the correct tools these steel boxes can be converted with relative ease, especially in comparison to the brick and mortar alternative. If DIY isn’t your cup of tea there are numerous companies offering high end conversions to suit a wide range of commercial uses.
A shipping container business is the green choice. Without the upcycling of the shipping container into business premises, millions of shipping containers would sit deteriorating, obsolete and unused. Their use also reduces the requirement for alternate building materials such as concrete, brick and timber, further reducing the ecological footprint of any shipping container construction.
The purchase and subsequent conversion of a shipping container is relatively budget friendly in comparison to that of traditional business premises. In the event that they are to be used for limited periods of time they will often require no planning permissions, and can be moved as and when necessary with relative ease.
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