Innovative entrepreneurs are using shipping containers to establish a variety of business ideas worldwide. When considering the versatility and mobility of shipping containers, the options to use them profitably seem endless.

Whether you are looking to set up a permanent business that has potential to grow, a pop-up business or a mobile business, shipping containers offer a wide range of possibilities.

Here are five business ideas to consider if you are looking to start a commercial enterprise using shipping containers.


Twenty- or forty-foot shipping containers provide just enough space for a variety of retail options. Not only that, but they can be securely locked to ensure your merchandise is always safe. Retail shops that would do well in a container-sized space could be clothing or ‘thrift’ shops, antiques, gifts or new and used book shops, to name just a few. These can either be set up as permanent retail outlets on a rented site, or as a pop-up shop for an event, festival or holiday season. Multiple containers can also be placed or linked together to make a ‘shopping mall’ for a variety of retail shops.


Shipping containers are easily converted. Doors, windows, counters and decks can affordably and effortlessly be added to make the container more user-friendly. Considering this, running a small, or large, restaurant from a shipping container is a unique, eco-friendly and quirky option for someone who doesn’t want to over-capitalise on building or rental costs. To do this you can either use the container as your cooking area with your patrons seated in an outside area, or you can convert as many containers as you need to make an indoor seating area. Since they are movable, containers make an ideal option for mobile restaurants. Other culinary business ideas to consider in a container space are a prepared meal outlet, bakery, coffee shop or a catering service. Containers also make atmospheric bar venues. The inside can be adapted into an intimate and cosy bar area, while the outside can be expanded for a more festive atmosphere.


If you have the budget, investing in containers to rent out can be a lucrative business option. Containers make ideal tiny homes and can be kitted out either as a permanent rental or for holiday lets. If you have the land and space in the correct location, you could invest in a holiday resort by turning a few containers into rustic or luxury holiday rentals. Easily stacked together or on top of each other, shipping containers also make ideal and secure public storage units that can be rented out.


Shipping containers can be an excellent asset to farming enterprises by earning farmers extra revenue. Hydroponic vegetable growing systems have been successfully installed in containers. These organic growing systems in a 40-foot container can produce up to an acre’s worth of crop yields. With the installation of water tanks and LED lights, self-sustaining container growing systems are becoming a popular option in South Africa when space, time and finances are limited.

Being compact and movable, containers can also be placed close to crops and plantations where they can serve as a farmer’s marketplace for freshly harvested produce.


Mobile performance venues have become very popular in South Africa. A single shipping container, which can be converted to have drop-down sides, makes an ideal stage for music or other types of performances. Not only is it easy and affordable to set up, but it also makes a perfect mobile unit. If you need a larger space, two or more containers can be configured to suit your size and needs. With this type of versatility, you can adapt your container for any type of performance or show, from live acts, to art and flower exhibitions and even outdoor movie screens.

If you’re looking for a reliable source in container sales and conversions contact us at Valley Containers and find out for yourself why we’re the leading distributors and sellers of shipping containers and container customisation across Africa.