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How to Become an Authorized Distributor

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An authorized dealer and distributor is someone who is officially contracted to sell products for a specific company. It’s almost like opening a franchise, but it’s really your own small business. You just happen to be selling recognizable products with a built-in consumer base.

Distributors are contractors, which means they’ll have to register their business entity like any other startup. It’s also a really broad job because almost every industry works with distributors of some sort. The way you choose to operate your distribution business should be dependent on your work ethic, investment and personality.

Choose Your Industry

If you want to become an authorized distributor, you’re going to have to decide what industry you want to tackle. There are dealers and distributors in almost any retail industry, so the sky is the limit.

For example, in the realm of professional sports, the National Hockey League allows some business owners to become commercial licensees and sell official merchandise. In the world of deli meats, you can become an authorized Boar’s Head distributor by applying to their local purveyors program online.

If you want to distribute beer, you have to get a permit from the United States Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Many distributors choose to become consumer electronics resellers since it can be particularly lucrative if you know how to refurbish old electronics.

Pick a Strategy as an Authorized Distributor

Not all authorized dealers and distributors function in the same way. Some entrepreneurs become a distributor from home, while others work in a specific region and make sales calls. The lifestyle you want should dictate the type of goods you choose to distribute. You have three main paths you can choose:

  • Take an existing opportunity with a larger company
  • Start your own authorized dealer business from scratch
  • Buy someone else’s already-existing company.

For example, Keurig has business-to-business distributors. This is easy to set up because you can apply online, but a position like that would require cold-calling businesses and/or soliciting door-to-door sales of their brewing systems. That’s a job well suited for a social, outgoing person, and the positives are that Keurig has a built-in consumer base and a trusted brand name.

On the other hand, if you’re the type of person who wants to become a distributor from home, you might want to consider reselling items on Amazon. Starting from scratch requires a big upfront investment. You’re the person in charge of buying the goods for resale, and you’re not working on commission.

Working in the Tech Industry

Things get even more regulated in the tech world. For example, Apple requires their authorized sellers and service providers to have a physical commercial location and a line of credit. That’s a huge investment, but it’s for a highly sought-after product. It could be very worth it, especially if you’re in an area without much competition. This is typical for consumer electronics resellers who work with major tech brands.

Handle the Paperwork

Whether you want to become a beer dealer and distributor or a consumer electronics reseller, you’re going to have to fill out paperwork and sometimes pay distributor fees. This is, after all, what makes you authorized versus totally rogue. This step could be as simple as searching for distributor opportunities and applying online or as difficult as signing strict licensing contracts and obtaining a permit from the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

It’s important to always research what paperwork, licenses and permits are required before you get started. For example, Apple requires its authorized dealers to use Apple-certified repair technicians. This means that your technicians would have to pass an exam to receive the proper certification.

All businesses need a local business license, so you’ll have to contact your attorney general’s office to apply.

Launch Your Platform and Hit the Ground Running

Once you handle the paperwork and buy your inventory, you need to launch your distributor platform. This could be as simple as opening an eBay or Amazon shop. A lot of tech resellers prefer to use these services because the barrier of entry is very low.

You might also opt to open your own e-commerce website, launch a physical location (though this isn’t typically the most lucrative option) or pick up the phone and pitch your product.


Mariel Loveland is a small business owner with an editorial background in lifestyle and technology. Her work has been featured in Alternative Press, Vice and HelloGiggles. When Mariel's not writing, she can be found swishing her hair on stage with her punk band and managing the ins-and-outs of self-employment.

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