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
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