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Setting up a new business requires keeping costs within control, as well as finding premises that suit the needs of the business while being in the right location for the target market. A great way of combining all three criteria is to set up in a converted shipping container.

Boxpark in Croydon hosts 76 container-based businesses

But how to find an empty shipping container you can use? Enter an entrepreneur - taking an opportunity to source used shipping containers which have reached the end of their time with shipping lines. You can buy these for as little as £1,100, depending on how damaged it is, and Bullman Marine Supplies and Containers currently has more than 7,000 of them for sale, as well as sourcing brand new ones from China for buyers who want one in sparkling condition. One of these could set you back £2,500. Bullman will also convert containers for customers, turning them into everything from mobile bars to crowd control turnstiles, exhibition units, and bike racks.

These are great for new businesses to try out their market in a pop-up style location. And even better, they can locate in a 'mall' made up entirely of shipping container businesses, gaining the benefits of a larger footfall from being part of a retail community, as well as the external economies of scale and community sharing of ideas that comes from being amongst other like-minded small business owners. London hosts most of these so far with Boxpark in Shoreditch in the east of the city being first in 2011 and now having a second setting in Croydon, South London, now joined by Pop Brixton, and there is also Cargo One in Bristol - watch out for more around the country. They host businesses doing anything from food and drink - lots of cafes and bars set up there - to niche businesses making wooden Bluetooth speaker systems. Each container has water and electricity connections, has passed planning and building regulation requirements, and costs around £20,000 a year to rent - much less than renting a 'traditional' bricks and mortar shop.

They wouldn't suit the target market for every business, and the severely limited space is clearly a constraint if the business takes off, but what a great example of enterprise in the business-to-business sector.

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