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12 Small businesses you can start from a Shipping Container

Will 2020 be the year that you grab the bull by the horns and make your dream of owning a business a reality?

Starting a business is an exciting yet daunting prospect with many factors to consider. A key decision you will need to make is choosing business premises. Whether you are a retailer looking to open your first outlet, a coffee connoisseur taking that giant step towards owning a coffee shop, or if you offer a professional service – every business needs a home and some are more cost-effective than others, which is a huge bonus when you are starting out and cash flow is tight.

Many start-ups are realising the huge potential of running a business from a shipping container. Shipping containers are a versatile, sustainable, and adaptable alternative to purchasing or renting permanent premises.

What are the benefits of running a business from a shipping container?

An interesting location

A unique location adds to the story of your business, it gives people something to talk about.  Every new business needs a buzz around it.  This could be yours.


No expensive leases or purchase costs, converting a shipping container to your exact style and requirements is an excellent way of saving money on property.

Upcycling is in

The world is waking up to the importance of leading a more sustainable existence, give your business a head start by repurposing a used container into your office or outlet.

Open your business sooner!

While your business is waiting to open you won’t make any money!  Converting a container is significantly faster than building new premises or searching for and waiting for a rental or purchase agreement to complete.  We can deliver a container in approximately one week – if you require us to convert or modify the container, we need planning time with our conversions yard and this may add 1-2 weeks for simple work or more for very involved or high volume refurbishment jobs.  More information on delivery times and options can be found here.

Moving on? No problem!

In the future, you may decide to move your business to a new location or even upsize to more permanent premises.  The beauty of a shipping container business is that you can have your container loaded onto a delivery truck and transported to a new location!  Providing that location is a suitable spot, you can move quite easily.

If you decided to expand your business, you could consider purchasing additional containers to extend your existing premises.

Find out more about our shipping container delivery options and transportation here.

12 Small businesses you can start-up in a business container

Pop up clothes shop

“The pop-up shop is having a major moment” states Style  Pop-ups do exactly as the name suggests, they appear in unused spaces for a limited time, which creates a buzz.  When that buzz dies off, they simply move on!  It’s not a settled existence but it is a method that is proving successful in modern retail.

Coffee shop

A shipping container provides an ideal commercial space for a small, start-up coffee shop.  Containers can be modified with serving hatches, plumbing, and electricity and customised to your own edgy design.  Have a look at this container coffee shop in Canary Wharf.  An exciting project featured on our website.

Cheese Toastie Stand

This Cheese Toastie stand made from a converted container was purchased from us, by a start-up cheese toastie entrepreneur set up in Brick Lane, London. The container, conversions, and delivery totaled approximately £3,000 – a great example of how you can run a start-up on a tight budget (and with a recycled/used container at the same time!)

As this was only a temporary business, you can no longer find him there, but you can see the project details here.

Co-working space

Self-employed life can be lonely at times.  But there has been a real surge in sole trader start-ups in recent years.  Whilst many of these business owners work from a home office, interspersed with an occasional visit to a coffee shop to use the free Wi-Fi, there is always a need for an adaptable, affordable and flexible co-working space.  You might consider offsetting the cost of installing a shipping container office on your premises by sub-letting it to small business owners who are looking for a change of scene.  Village Underground in Lisbon is a unique and creative working space with a European flair.

To find out about our range of Shipping Container Offices, click here.

Fitness Centre

Our customised high spec new build shipping container provided the ideal place to securely store exercise kit for London based health and fitness business, Basefit.

The custom-painted unit (painted black to complement their brand colours) was perfect for securely storing valuable fitness equipment with some welcome ventilation to help the kit breathe whilst it was packed away. The unit was highly customised to allow the site to make use of the container as part of the exercise setup.

Ice Cream Stand

Simple and cost-effective to kit out, with anti-vandal build quality make shipping containers ideal Ice Cream stands.  Add in a roller shutter serving hatch to serve customer and paint to your choice of colour!  We recently admired this cool stand at Arrow Valley Park in Redditch (just down the road from our head office in south Birmingham).

Snack bar/Catering Pod

A versatile and perfectly customisable alternative to a traditional snack van, a shipping container is a perfect home for your new snack bar or catering pod.  We recently customised this cladded catering pod with roller shutter for Studley High School.

Event venue

Shipping Containers lend themselves perfectly to mobile event venues.  For PR companies looking to create a big splash, a shipping container can be completely customised to the event brief and delivered to your event location.  If your event is a travelling roadshow, you can take your container with you!  We know a thing or two about Shipping Container event venues, have a look at our case study on the Shipping Container converted to a DJ Booth for the Cricket World Cup or the Shipping Container Street Bar we converted for a Singha Beer festival.

Glamping or Camping

Ty Cwch is a stunning glamping experience on the Cardigan Heritage Coast in Ceredigion that was recently awarded a Tourism Innovation Award by the Mid Wales Tourist Board.  With stunning views over the water, and cool, contemporary self-catering facilities. This is a secret getaway that is truly Instagram-worthy.  If you have access to a unique location, shipping container guest accommodation could be an ideal business start-up to consider.

Nail salon

Bijou, cosy and cost-effective.  Nail salons work surprisingly well in shipping containers, as our new friend Nails By Ya Gal in Manchester proves so perfectly.

Barber Shop

Being low cost to set up and easy to customise, means that a shipping container premises provides the perfect stepping stone for a Barber Shop!  Rustic, cool, edgy and with a man-cave feel – a perfect venue!

Bike or surfboard hire shop

When you work out in the open and you have a lot of equipment to store, a shipping container can provide the ideal solution for your fledgling business.  Shipping containers are secure, weatherproof and cost-effective – the absolutely perfect base for a surf shack or bike hire shop!

What next?

Once you have considered your various options starting a shipping container business, you might need some expert advice – and that is where we come in.  Please feel free to get in touch with our team to ask any questions about purchasing a new or used shipping container for conversion into a home, or to speak to us about a specific project.  In either instance, we would be very happy to help.

Do you need a shipping container? offer the UK’s largest online range of shipping containers for sale with a nationwide network of storage and conversion yards and crane equipped delivery vehicles.

If you need a shipping container feel free to browse our online range of shipping containers for sale, which also includes our ranges of flat pack sheds, container canopies and more. You can also call us on freephone 0808 1234 215 any time 9am – 7pm weekdays and our team will be happy to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, you can use our online shipping container quote form or request a telephone callback. In both cases we aim to get back to you within 1-2 working hours (may take longer for more detailed quotes).

Image credits

Nailsbyyagal image used with permission from @Nailsbyyagal

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