Small headaches a big barrier to micro-businesses in international trade

Last month, Hello!Lucky and Egg Press concluded our second annual Write_On campaign to challenge ourselves, our friends, and our fans to write 30 letters in 30 days to bolster authentic connections. The campaign was a resounding success, with all 5,000 of the free "starter" kits (letterpress cards and a Sakura pen) spoken for within days of announcing the campaign.

About 60 of those kits were requested by international customers, and while we were thrilled to see our campaign going global, shipping the kits out proved to be a nightmare.

Why? It all boiled down to customs and duties and a lack of standardization.  We had to fill out customs declarations for each package individually -- offered no way to copy and paste content, or to bulk ship a package with the same contents to multiple international destinations.  The project took a full-time employee three days to complete. For a small business, that's a major investment in time and resources.

Now, imagine a small business seeking to grow overseas. Let's say the company runs a sale for customers in, say, Indonesia, that results in a good number of orders. The labor and cost of shipping is enough to erode profit margins or even turn them negative. Not to mention the negative fallout when packages get stuck at the border

Start-ups like Shyp are trying to take the pain out of small business shipping. However, even they throw their hands up when it comes to customs and duties, putting the onus on the shipper to fill out all the forms, and deal with the consequences at customs.  Here's what they say:

Shyp can send items anywhere in the world where traditional carriers operate. 
 Customs Declaration Forms
International shipments require a Customs Declaration Form, which itemizes contents and value. Customs Declaration entry is built into the app, so Shyp can include all necessary documents with your shipment.
 To assist in smooth Customs processing, accurate entry of all contents and value in its entirety is required. After entering an international address and snapping a photo,  ‘Item Information’ entry is displayed. Add an item description, unit value and quantity of items.
 International shipments are subject to inspection by Customs in the receiving country and will reference the itemized Declaration Form. Shyp reserves the right to inspect any item, and any packaging may be subject to opening by our packing technicians to ensure full compliance with carrier and postal guidelines and to be validated for description and value for customs.
Duties & Taxes
All Shipments are subject to assessment of duties and taxes set forth by the importing country’s government. The duties and taxes are assessed based on the information provided in the Customs forms and the amount can be determined by Trade Agreements, Country of Manufacture, Use of the product, or Product Value.  Items are typically held and released only after the amount is paid.  Please keep in mind, gifts and personal effects are not exempt from duties and taxes.
 All international shipments sent with Shyp require the recipient to pay duties upon delivery in the destination country and may not be released until paid in full. If an international package is returned to Shyp because the shipment was ‘Refused’ or ‘Unclaimed,’  the user may be subject to additional shipping charges incurred for the return shipment. 
Please email if you need to prepay for duties.
International Tracking & Delivery
The lowest cost, default international shipping option does not include insurance, delivery guarantee or tracking. To upgrade to a service class that includes insurance, delivery guarantee, and tracking, simply upgrade via shipping options in the app.
 Carriers cannot account for delays or processing through Customs which can affect the delivery date.


Sound simple?  It's not. But it could be. Small and micro-businesses need trade agreements that harmonize customs and duties and lift and standardize de minimis customs thresholds.  We also need killer apps to make it affordable and painless to ship small packages of goods overseas.  

Any takers?