10 Innovative Business Ideas for Small Shipping Containers

Over 30 million small businesses currently operate in the United States. That means there’s around one business to every 11 people in the country!

You’d be forgiven for thinking that starting one is easy. In reality, that’s far from the truth. It takes time, money and effort, as well as a fair dose of courage. Finding the perfect place to set up shop can be a particular challenge. Business premises are rarely cheap, and choosing the wrong location can stifle opportunities from the get-go.

Funnily enough, a solution to the problem is being found in an unlikely source: Shipping containers.

That’s right, those giant metal boxes used to transport cargo overseas are now hosting businesses of all varieties, all over the country. They’re cheap, eco-friendly, durable, and portable! But what kind of businesses are best suited to them?

Keep reading to discover 10 innovative business ideas for small shipping containers.

1. Cafés, Bars And/Or Restaurants

Shipping container bars, cafes, and restaurants are all the rage these days.

Go to almost every major city and you’ll find these trendy spaces popping up all over the place. They hold a particular appeal to certain crowds. Expect a youthful, trendy, hipster clientele to frequent them. Shipping containers provide a blank canvas in terms of style. You can decorate and customize them according to needs for a distinctive aesthetic. That makes them ideal for iconic branding.  

2. Gift Shops

How about using your shipping container as a cute and unique gift shop?

Indeed, increasing numbers of business owners are opting to set up their retail stores in this way. They simply provide a far cheaper means of displaying items in thriving metropolitan areas. Do you make awesome, handmade arts and crafts goods? Containers provide a great space in which to showcase all the amazing gifts you have on sale.

3. Gallery Space

Aspiring artists have a challenge on their hands.

Getting their name and work out there is key to establishing a recognizable brand and reputation in the industry.

Displaying work in a gallery can make a big difference. Unfortunately, new artists can struggle to find space in traditional galleries. It’s a fiercely competitive industry, meaning there are far more artists than galleries available. Enter shipping containers! They can make an ideal alternative. It’s easy to convert a container into a gallery, and they’d be perfect for displaying someone’s art.   

4. Yoga Studio

We don’t need to tell you how popular yoga has become in recent years.

More people than ever before are taking to their mats to contort their bodies in inexplicable ways! And many of them attend classes specifically for that purpose. Yoga teachers could very easily use shipping containers to create a unique yoga studio. Typical yoga spaces are expensive to hire; they’re also increasingly generic. It’s always important to stand out from the competition. Holding classes in a container may be just the start a new yoga teacher needs.

5. Book Store

There’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned book store!

Many people prefer to browse the aisles than scroll the online catalog. Shipping containers provide a novel, modern twist to a traditional shop. Why not try setting up a pop-up book store? Open up the doors and shed some light on the books you have for sale. It’s bound to draw a crowd of literature lovers.

6. Office Space

Office space is ludicrously expensive these days.

For instance, in Houston, the average annual cost of renting office space per employee is $5,668. Can you afford that level of expense? If the answer’s no, then setting up your office in shipping containers can be a worthy and less expensive solution to consider.

Similarly, it may be more in line with your brand as well. The office your business inhabits says something about your company and target audience. A trendy shipping container may speak to your audience more than a shiny top floor of a corporate building.

7. Workshop

Good with your hands?

Then think about setting your workshop up in a shipping container. It wouldn’t take much to convert one into the ideal workshop. With a few workbenches set up and your equipment installed, you’re good to go!

The durable and secure nature of the container would be conducive to the work too. Everything will be kept safely inside when you aren’t there.

8. Bicycle Mechanic

A plush, fancy store is unlikely to tick the right boxes for a mechanic. A hardened steel structure is more likely to fit the bill. It definitely fits the stereotype better!

Just as they make great workshops, shipping containers would be ideally suited to a bicycle mechanic too. The size would match up to the demands of the job; the traditionally Spartan nature of containers would suit the oil and grime that often comes with the territory. 

9. Storage Facilities

Shipping containers are literally designed to store things!

Items of all shapes and sizes find themselves stowed away inside these structures. They’re solid, durable, weatherproof metal boxes that safely protect the contents inside. Why not leverage their core functionality for your own storage business? You could buy a number of them, install safe-boxes inside, and voila!

10. IT Repair Service

New businesses don’t always need anything fancy at the outset. A basic space to set up shop and operate from is all that matters. A small shipping computer is perfect if you are an IT person setting up shop. Remember, they can be kitted out exactly as you need them. Desks, internet, and storage space can be easily arranged.

Final Thoughts on Businesses in Small Shipping Containers

There you have it: 10 innovative business ideas for small shipping containers.

Millions of businesses operate around the country already. However, it would be wrong to assume that it’s an easy process. In reality, the decision to start a business should never be taken lightly. One wrong decision can jeopardize the potential for success. One particularly important component is deciding the premises. Thankfully, as we’ve seen, shipping containers can provide a practical, novel, and modern solution.

Almost any business can benefit from setting up shop in a shipping container!

Interested in buying a shipping container for your new venture? 

Contact us today to see how we can help!

The Inspirational Story of a Texas Container Bar

The city of Austin is a weird city and proud of this fact. The Texas metropolis even adopted the phrase “keep Austin weird” as a semi-official slogan to entice visitors from out of state. So it should not be much of a surprise that local businesses would try to play up the city’s unique vibe as much as possible.

Enter Container Bar, on Rainey Street, that’s built out of seven re-purposed shipping containers.

But why would you build a business out of shipping containers? Is it just a gimmick or is there more to it?

The Life and Story of Austin’s Container Bar

Admittedly, using shipping containers for construction is not new. That idea probably originated with the “micro-home” trend some years back. The idea was to build small, utilitarian, and easy-to-transport homes. With that criteria, using shipping containers was an obvious fit. Shipping containers are prefabricated, cost-effective, and easy to transport from one plot of land to another. So the first container buildings were very small homes built out of single container units. 

Their uniform size and shape let you treat them like Lego blocks during construction. You can arrange them to suit your needs. With so much flexibility, people started using shipping containers to piece together their own custom homes. From there, it was only a matter of time before someone got the idea to move the concept into the commercial space.

A few enterprising business people have already experimented with using containers for pop-up restaurants. These were usually small mobile kitchen or bars, more akin to a food truck than a brick and mortar establishment. But it wouldn’t be long until someone came along and expanded on this idea.

An Idea Born of Necessity

The Container Bar in Austin was the brainchild of Bridget Dunlap. A successful entrepreneur, Dunlap already owned several successful businesses in the city. But when she leased a plot of land near two of her existing venues, she had a mind to do something different.

Most of her previous ventures had been located in old homes that had been renovated into bars. However, around the time that she set to work on her new project, Dunlap recognized that the Rainey Street area was changing.

Dunlap’s first Austin-based bar and the first bar on Rainey Street had recently closed. It was shuttered and torn down to make way for a new, 250,000 square foot residential building. This seemed to be the herald of things to come, as the old bungalows that Dunlap and other local proprietors had been retrofitting into restaurants and venues were disappearing.

Luxury hotels and condos would take their places. And Dunlap recognized that she would need to plan ahead because Rainey Street would not stay the same forever.

A Bar Built to Move

Dunlap went into her new venture knowing that Rainey would only be a temporary home, with a permanent life elsewhere. Normally, having to pick up and move your entire establishment as part of a business plan would be a non-starter.

The decision to use shipping containers for the construction was not incidental. Nor was it just to cultivate an industrial-chic vibe. No, building with containers was essential to the bar’s future.

Ease of transport was a big selling point for people looking to build micro homes, and it would be that quality that allowed Dunlap to move forward with her plans. But even though the containers themselves are portable, Dunlap had her work cut out for her.

While shipping containers are themselves portable and durable, you need to account for all the material you are taking out during construction. Creating doorways, putting in plumbing, and especially multiple stories all need to be accounted for during the design phase.

So Dunlap sought the help of North Arrow Studio, in-order to ensure the container bar would be structurally sound while being fully mobile. Since, this bar would need to hold up to the rigors of being disassembled and moved to a new location in the future. 

All that hard work, however, would pay dividends when the finished product was settled on its first foundation.

The Opening of Container Bar

Unless you were part of the team planning and building the Container Bar, you probably would have had no idea what it would look like when it finally opened to the public.

You might expect a dingy industrial setting, maybe trying to cultivate a sense of danger and mystique. That would be the obvious direction to go. Which is probably when Dunlap opted not to go in that direction. Instead, she took advantage of the container’s compartmentalized nature to give patrons a variety of settings.

Rather than entirely renovating the interiors, Contain Bar uses a series of visual effects to give each area its own feel without entirely stripping away the containers’ utilitarian nature. There’s a winter scene, tiles and gradient patterns, dark wood cladding, gold leaf, and walls of repeating text, to name a few. These scenes are further enhanced with lighting and other visual effects to accentuate the vibe and ambiance. 

Built from seven containers over two stories, the 8,000 square foot space has a mix of indoor and outdoor areas with upstairs balconies and open courtyards.

Inside the structure, you will find multiple cubbyholes, where patrons can relax away from the main bar area. There are also several private rooms, and the mix of mood allows anyone to find a setting that suits them.

What Container Bar’s Success Means for the Future

The circumstances that brought about the Container Bar’s existence are not unique to Austin Texas. As urban areas grow, small enterprises find themselves pushed out to make way for new development.

Hence, more entrepreneurs are looking at shipping container construction. Faced with an unpredictable urban landscape, having the option to pack up and move out is an undeniable advantage.

Are you considering building with shipping containers for your new business concept? Check out some of our trendy container bar ideas. Whether as a permanent or a pop-up installation, they will always create a buzz.

How Shipping Container Restaurants are Creating a Revolution in America

You want to open a restaurant or bar but you’re intimidated by the risk factors and high costs. There’s a way to make your dream of owning a restaurant come true while keeping your costs down — shipping containers. You’ve heard of food trucks, but a shipping container restaurant? Believe it or not, they’re actually creating a design revolution.

Shipping containers are being used to create offices, garages, and even swimming pools. We’ll show you how you can use them to make owning your own restaurant a reality — keep reading!

Ready to Go

The number one reason to create a container bar or restaurant?  Shipping containers are readily available.

The US imports way more than it exports. Many of those containers go only one way — from Asia to the US. That means there’s a steady supply of empty containers sitting around, waiting to be used. You’ll have a lot of choices when it comes to building with containers.

One choice to consider is used versus new. You can get a brand new container that’s in perfect condition, although used is probably your best choice. Used containers can be purchased cheaper. And as we mentioned, one way containers are very lightly used, so they won’t need to have much if any refurbishing done.

Cost Effective

Because there’s so much supply and not much demand (for now), you can pick up containers for cheap. On average, a mildly used container will costs less than $5,000.

One small cost associated with shipping containers: you’ll have to prep them. Be prepared to spend a little money adding insulation and windows to your container. 

The money you save with shipping containers can be poured into start-up marketing expenses in getting your restaurant or bar off the ground. 

Sustainable Construction

As we mentioned, the supply of shipping containers is high. Because of this, shipping container construction is Eco-friendly and sustainable.

With traditional construction, there’s a lot of materials and waste that go into it. However with container construction, they’re ready to go and only need a little bit of modification to fit your needs.

Plus, there isn’t as much energy used to move containers around versus building a restaurant from scratch. Building with shipping containers helps recycle and re-use materials that are already there and helps keep your carbon footprint down.

Flexible Design

You’d think that because shipping containers are only available in sizes from eight to 40 feet, your design options are limited. That’s simple not true.

Yes, your restaurant will be boxy-looking. But once you get creative, you’ll see how many options you have when building with containers. One container makes a tiny yet tidy little restaurant. Push a few more together, and you open up space.

Bonus points if your restaurant has an industrial or rough-edged concept! Sometimes an unfinished container is just the look you’re going for. You no doubt have a vision of what you want your restaurant to look like. Shipping containers can make that dream a reality.

Fast Set Up

When you build the traditional way, there’s sometimes a lot of “hurry up and wait”. Even when leasing a space, you might have to do some remodeling to make it to your standards.

Container restaurants can be put together fast. They’ve already got a ceiling, walls, and a floor, they just need a little modification.

After adding insulation, decor, and whatever other modifications you need, your container is ready to go. You can even find a company like EMS to make changes and deliver the containers ready to use.

Mobility

These containers are meant to be shipped. As such, they’re easy to move around. What does this mean for you as a start-up business? You can place you container restaurant or bar in whatever area makes the most sense for you.

For example, is there an empty lot that’s close to a high-traffic road? That’s prime real estate for a new restaurant. Although they’re not as mobile as a food truck, you’ll find container restaurants more flexible than traditional spaces. If you ever decide to franchise, you’ll have a built-in plan for expansion, too.

Energy Efficient

Utility bills can be staggering for restaurants. Think of all the water, heating, gas, energy, etc. that you need to run your business.

When putting together your restaurant or bar, you can make it more energy efficient. Think about using some of your construction savings to invest in things like solar panels or high-efficiency appliances.

Just using a shipping container is an Eco-conscious choice. You can go greener with just a few modifications.

Dream Kitchen

We all know the kitchen is the heart of a restaurant. Having good flow-through allows your servers and cooks to be efficient and safe.

When you use an existing space, you have to work with what you have. A shipping container kitchen can be built any way you want it to be.

You know what would work best for you and your crew. Container construction allows you to get as creative as you need to be.

Cool Designs

We’ve given you a lot of practical reasons to build your restaurant out of shipping containers. We’ll give you another reason that’s totally arbitrary but might just sell you on this concept.

Container restaurants are cool. Think about how unique and eye-catching they look even before you decorate it the way you want.

Your amazing food is the main draw, but having an incredible design will get a lot of attention.

Build Your Shipping Container Restaurant or Bar Today

You already have enough on your plate trying to get your restaurant off the ground. Building a shipping container bar or restaurant can save you cash, is sustainable, looks amazing, and more.

You have way more options when you design your space with shipping containers. Plus, with the money you save, you can pour it back into your business.

Whether you want to build from new, used, or modified containers, we’ve got tons of options for you. Check out all of the modification services we offer and make your restaurant or bar a reality today!