Finding the “Right” Manufacturer for Your Creative Products

by Jane Button on September 12, 2010

You’ve started your business designing and creating your fabulous product and NOW you realize you’ve got to find a manufacturer. Since you’re not going to be making your product all yourself and still do all the other parts of your business – like designing, marketing, selling, accounting, shipping, customer service and being the visionary – it’s time to find a manufacturer who can do the production for you.

If you’re quite small, you may want to do the production yourself –please resist that urge if you’re looking for growth, or you will never get bigger. There is only so much one person can do. If you want to grow your business, hire a contractor or small factory.

When I first started my company I knew I could not do the production myself and run a profitable company. At first I hired local knitters for my knitted products and later I helped found a small knitting manufacturing company. Eventually we moved the knitting to Hong Kong (that’s another story!)

As we added sewn products to our line, it was much more of a challenge. Though there were plenty of manufacturers right in our backyard of Seattle – I found there was a real learning curve to finding the right ones for our products; not just because our quantities were small to start out with, but because all sewing factories are not geared towards making every product.

I usually suggest starting your manufacturing with a domestic company rather than starting off-shore. It may cost you more; however it is easier to inspect what you expect with domestic companies and going through the initial relationship process is, in general best for most small companies.

If price is an issue with your product or invention, you may have to go off-shore – however in most cases it is likely you can start with domestic. Manufacturing off-shore presents a whole other set of circumstances for production – not the least of which is customs, quality control and timing.

The first time you do business with anyone is generally the most difficult because there is a certain learning curve for both parties – so be advised to stay calm and be patient.

Just finding a good domestic manufacturer can be quite a challenge. There are many companies – but finding a good one that is suited for your product requires a great deal of investigation and homework – especially if you are trying to find a company to do small quantities.

Take the time for due diligence!

Where to start your search:

Referrals – These can be some of the best resources
ThomasNet.com
Alibaba.com A global resource
Trade Schools or Community Colleges – talk to the department that relates to your product
Other Manufacturers: If they do their own production in house they might have slack times where they need extra work OR may know of a contractor who is looking for work
Put an ad in Craigslist ( I recently did this and had at least 10 responses from small businesses wanting more work)
Ask at Fabric Stores for sewing contractors
Ask Sales Reps from whom you purchase raw materials, they often sell products directly to manufacturers

You are searching for a quality partner, so please look at several contractors before making your final decision of where to place your goods. The final production of your goods is absolutely critical to your business. Your sales may have been great – but you must deliver a quality product ON TIME, so it is imperative that you take time and energy to ensure that your production is in good hands.

Next week is Part II: Narrowing The Field – What To Look For And What To Ask

© 2010 Jane Button International Design2Market Success

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Online creative product mentor Jane Button publishes “Design 2 Market News” weekly ezine packed full of with tips to help make you money from your Sewn or Knit Product, Design, Gift, or Craft Business. If you’re ready to take off the training wheels and turn your creative passion into a profitable business, get your FREE tips now at www.Design2MarketSuccess.com

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Paul November 17, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Wow! This post was so informative. I'm currently working on a startup and I'm looking for kind of a unique manufacturer (stand bags for golf). Came across this article during a google search and I wanted to let you know that it is excellent. I will be looking around this site more. Thanks for the quality website!

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