There is a website that is used by 8 million qualified and screened members from almost every country on the planet.

They aren’t just browsing.

They are entrepreneurs. And they consider the site to be an indispensable business tool.

It’s a clearinghouse and meeting point for the import-export industry. And its members do about $6 billion in business with each other annually.

Businesspeople find partners, suppliers, and manufacturers all over the world. (All verified to be on the level — or they wouldn’t be allowed on the site.) They make contact and then set up deals. For most products, no licenses, permits, or government paperwork is involved. The agreements they draw up with their suppliers is all they need. And language is not a barrier for them. English really is the language of business.

Not only that, they can do everything online — from researching “hot” products to getting those products for pennies on the dollar to selling those products at enormous mark-ups.

The people I’m talking about aren’t representatives of conglomerates or big retailers. Or big shots backed by millions in venture capital. They are individuals who didn’t have a lot of cash to get started — just a few hundred bucks. What they did have was knowledge of this site. And that allowed them to sidestep all the headaches.

One couple we know, Kevin and Lisa Hickey, followed this business model and built a $25 million business in just eight years. They started by selling flags from their basement “office.” Today, they have 10,000 products. (You can check out their site at onlinestores.com.)

Todd McCartney had a hobby: selling model aircraft online. But when a vendor asked if he could provide models that the major airlines could use for promotional purposes … Todd realized he’d need to ramp up production if he wanted to get those contracts.

So he visited the site I’ve been talking about. He actually stumbled across it while doing a Google search. And there he found suppliers that made it possible for him to cost-effectively meet the demand. Today, his clients include US Airways, Air Canada, and American Airlines. And now that he knows what’s possible with import-export , he’s going to start three new companies… selling kids’ toys, aviation collectibles, and promotional products for all kinds of businesses.

In 2003, Caroline Lau noticed that several of her friends were avid scrapbookers. She did a little research and found that a full-fledged scrapbooking trend was sweeping the country. But nobody was selling high-quality supplies for a good price. So Caroline tapped into the same website that put Kevin and Lisa Hickey and Todd McCartney in business. Her first year, she brought in more than $100,000… and her profits are now over $1 million annually.

The import-export business is a potentially very lucrative second stream of income for anyone who’s looking for extra money now. It’s also perfect for those who want to sock away some cash for a comfortable retirement.

And there is plenty of room for new import-export entrepreneurs. As you can see, you don’t have to be experienced in business, not to mention import-export, to make it work big time. The people I profiled here were not dynamos with loads of capital. They were ordinary people who identified a need for a product and started a business to fill it.

Lack of know-how didn’t stop them. Because they had a tool — that website — that made it easy. And think how much easier it could have been if they’d also had a mentor to walk them through the start-up process.

The website that makes this business possible for first-time entrepreneurs is Alibaba.com. Check it out now. You’ll see that manufacturers in China and a whole host of other countries are ready and able to supply you with products at very low prices. You then sell them to U.S. consumers at a huge profit. Everything from parkas to parakeet food is available.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a step-by-step guide to getting started with your import-export business. I hope you’ll follow along so you can see how easy it really is.