Can I Start A Shipping Container Business?

Can I Start A Shipping Container Business?

Many people wonder if they can buy a used shipping container and use it to start some type of business.

The answer is YES!

An internet search (perhaps the search that brought you here) will produce a long list of different types of businesses that enterprising Americans have started in an empty and customized steel shipping container.

This week on the Conex Depot Blog, we will discuss some of the advantages that shipping containers offer for would-be entrepreneurs, some of the pros and cons, and a TON of creative ideas for making a profit off of your used shipping container.

What businesses can I use a shipping container for?

The list is long and limited only by your imagination and available space. Let’s take a look at a list (by no means limited only to these examples!) of shipping container businesses:

What business can I start in a container?

Check out this long list of business ideas that run out of a shipping container:

Mobile restaurants, phone repair businesses, storage facilities, shipping container homes, pop up Art galleries, Personal-fitness training services, artisan or craft studio space, pet grooming services, fitness gyms, shipping container garages, nail or hair salons, event space for events such as concerts, festivals, trade shows, pop-up retail shop, craft beer brewery, Yoga studios, flower stand, book shop, sports equipment rental, bicycle repair shop, container Hydroponic greenhouse, coffee shops and cafes, temporary office space, special event ticket office, hotel, gourmet coffee kiosk, beach bar,  electronics repair shop,  real estate agency office, condo sales office, medical marijuana dispensaries,y, souvenir stand, juice, and smoothie bar, shawarma stand, cosmetics and beauty retail store, candy store, gourmet popcorn stand…and more.


Best Shipping Container Business Ideas For 2023

Let’s take a closer look at some of the best shipping container money-making ideas that have already been tried and proven profitable by “thinking INSIDE the box” (metal cargo box, that is) by small business owners.


America’s Top 10 Uses for Shipping Containers

America’s Top 10 Uses for Shipping Containers

Here are some of the most popular businesses that can utilize shipping containers

1- Retail Stores and Pop Up shops

There are an amazing array of different types of products and services that can be sold out of a retail shop made out of a customized shipping container. Small, independent sellers and boutiques can find affordable space to put up a storefront and sell to the public. In addition, the shipping container can be renovated off-site and dropped at the retail site. This is especially important for seasonal types of businesses – imagine a shop that sells during the tourist high season, for example.

Many bricks and mortar businesses require a substantial deposit and a twelve to twenty-four month lease to open the doors (in addition to the costly renovations to make the store ready to open to customers). With a shipping container, an electric hookup is the biggest task to make the Conex container shop ready for business.

The most common products that we’ve seen sold out of shipping container shops are men’s and women’s clothing, costume jewelry, gift shops that sell handmade products like soaps and holistic health items, book shops, cell phone accessories, and pet supplies, and the list is endless.

Pop-up shops are often used for seasonal business use. Shops that are required to open for a few peak shopping months out of the year. For example, a business wants to run a promotion selling items in temporary high demand during a holiday season – such as fireworks, Christmas trees and decorations, firewood, and many other uses

Read also: First Timers Guide To Buying A Used Shipping Container

2 – Renting Out Storage Space

The majority of Conex Depot’s customers buy a used shipping container to use as a secure storage space. Home and business storage is the most common use of a cargo container. But not everyone wants – or needs – to buy their own container. Perhaps they need storage space for a limited amount of time during a home or business renovation.

Perhaps their business is growing and serving more customers, and the space that they need to store business inventory surpasses their available storage space. Most growing businesses face these growing pains at some point.

It can be a profitable business to purchase multiple shipping containers and rent or lease them out as self-storage units.

There is a high demand for self-storage units in most cities, both for the short-term and long-term. Steel containers are secure, weather-proof, and provide more than enough space. Outfitting the cargo doors with quality locks, and you are set to go. A little online marketing to those seeking affordable storage space, and you will have a stream of interested customers.

Shipping containers are an ideal solution for a customer looking to rent additional storage space, an advantage of using a shipping container over the traditional storage facility berths is that the business can have the shipping container stored close to their original business, making the inventory more easily accessible.

Conex Depot Customer Case Study – A recent delivery of a 40ft. high cube container to a local merchandising company in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The container will provide extra storage for excess stocks that were shipped in during the last holiday season.

An enterprising person can purchase several empty shipping containers and rent them out for storage use. Either the cargo container would be transported to the location of the renter or – providing that you have the space – store the containers on your own property.

It’s a business that doesn’t require day to day attention and can provide an almost passive income stream as a side business,

How much money can you charge? Shipping container rental costs will vary from state to state, but the average monthly rate is normally approximately from $100 – $150 for a 20 foot shipping container and from $150 – $250 for a 40 ft long container.

3- Coffee shops

One of the most interesting and popular shipping container businesses is using steel containers for coffee shops. Many small coffee brewers don’t require a ton of space to sell coffee, sweets, snacks, and retail coffee-related products like French presses, beans, and others.

A colorfully painted shipping container can attract local traffic and establish a loyal, daily customer base. A shipping container coffee shop situated in a parking lot of a strip mall located on a busy commuter route, Business commuters can stop and conveniently pick up a hot latte or cappuccino on their daily drive.


The setup is relatively simple. A cafe needs counter space, some storage space for inventory and equipment, and a few sets of tables and chairs placed outside the container. The majority of customers will take their coffee to go, so a large interior space is not necessary.

Even coffee giant Starbucks is setting up shops in renovated shipping containers in several U.S. locations.

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How much money does a shipping container coffee shop generate?

According to, calculated from a baseline of one hundred transactions per day, with an average sales receipt of$5, the coffee shop will generate $500 per day in sales, which comes to $15,000 of revenue each month. This adds up to $180,000 in gross revenue that the business would bring in a year.

4- Convenience Store and Souvenir Shop

Think of the last time that you were on vacation. Near the local attractions, there was very likely a cluster of small shops selling a number of different things to the crowds of visitors. Basic goods like cold drinks, bottled water, candy bars, suntan lotion, souvenirs, and keepsakes to buy for friends and family back home, All at a nice markup due to the convenience factor and favorable location next to an attraction.

I’m sure the entrepreneur in you caused you to pause and think, “They have a nice little cash cow here!” A steady flow of customers lined up, clutching money and needing a wide variety of convenience items.

Selling local souvenirs if you are in an area of tourist interest. Visitors will be keen to buy assorted items like mugs, refrigerator magnets, teaspoons, handicrafts, folk jewelry, craft food items, and most of all… t-shirts with that old chestnut “My GrandMa went to Pawtucket, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

A shipping container makes an excellent self contained souvenir shop and mini convenience shop. Since a Conex container was designed to be moved at the end of the summer, when all of the tourists have gone home, you can move the shipping container to the area where it will rest until next spring.

How much does a small retail store make?

From figures at, the average monthly revenue of small retailers by industry:

$20.2K: Specialty Foods.

$25K: Fashion.

$26.4K: Electronics.

$27.7K: Beverage

Infographic: Source:

6- Restaurant or bar, craft brewery

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The food and beverage industry is competitive with players looking to stand out from the crowd – and one of those ways is to serve food and drinks out of a converted shipping container restaurant and bar.

Renovated shipping containers give the venue a cool, industrial feel – and this attracts foodies looking for a new experience.

Compared to traditional bricks and mortar space, a shipping container is portable and can be placed at different locations depending on seasonality, changing business conditions, or other factors. Overspending and poor location are the biggest reasons why restaurants fail. Fortunately, you can increase your odds of success by building a food and beverage venue out of an affordable and flexible converted shipping container.

Many larger US cities have some shipping container restaurants that are in a similar niche to the immensely popular food truck phenomena. The shipping container restaurants feature an inside-outside concept and make them stand apart from other restaurants and bars in the area. A cool design and branding and your shipping container restaurant or bar are “Instagram friendly,” which is a key part of your online marketing.

How much does it cost to start a shipping container restaurant?

According to figures from, the average startup cost for a shipping container restaurant: is $19,815. The average cost of the used shipping container itself (a one time cost) is, on average, between the range of $1,500 to $3,500

This is considerably less than the start-up costs for a normal restaurant.

An online restaurant industry publication says that owners make around $400 to $600, calculated on the average net profit ($1350) of a restaurant per day. This comes out to around $155,000 per year.

Some small craft brewers have set up their brewing equipment in converted cargo containers and produce excellent quality small-batch brews for local markets.

Independent breweries and distilleries are a huge trend, with 8,000+ micro-breweries operating in the U.S. The enclosed space provided by the shipping container allows the brewer to control the temperature of the brewing environment, which is important to the brewing process.

A second shipping container can be outfitted to serve as a tap room where the beer produced in the shipping container brewery can be served with snacks to the thirsty guests generating additional revenue to the brewery’s sales.

Make money from your shipping container business

Shipping containers have many uses for entrepreneurs looking for a business idea. You can buy a shipping container and start a business renting them out for storage space, retail store space, takeout coffee shops, trendy food and beverage spaces, and many more business opportunities.