Oct 22, 2021

Find a Manufacturer or Supplier for Your Business Idea

Posted on Oct 22, 2021 by FelipeTadd

Find a Manufacturer or Supplier for Your Business Idea

We often get emails from people who want to start their own business and ask me to help them find a manufacturer. Believe it or not, finding a good manufacturer is probably the second biggest challenge when starting a fashion business after successfully wholesaling your product. I have known many, many clothing manufacturing nightmares, and now I firmly believe that a good and reliable manufacturer is essential to starting a fashion business.

Basically, without solid manufacturing, you can't really start selling or promoting your business unless you plan to produce it yourself. There are two main reasons for this. First of all, the samples you show to buyers should be nearly identical to the samples you provide when they order. If you are making delicate bias-cut chiffon dresses, you need to make sure you find a factory that can make them in the most beautiful way that you can make in your workshop. Second, you can't cost a garment without knowing how much it will cost to produce. I have tried this before (with another company), it was a disaster. You generally cannot estimate how much it will cost to produce, and you must have accurate producer prices to correctly calculate your wholesale or retail prices.

So here are the steps I would suggest if you want to start your own fashion business and need to find a clothing manufacturer.

Steps to Start Your Own Clothing Business

1. Find out what you are doing: 

Different countries make different items. For footwear, the main producing countries would be China, Italy, Spain or some places in South America. You won't be getting high-quality shoes from Canada, so don't expect to manufacture them there. Speciality products (lingerie, shoes, high-tech clothing) are generally only professionally produced in a few locations. If you are doing something very simple, like tailoring or t-shirts, then there are more options.

2. Determine the price of your product: 

If you make T-shirts and want them to sell in stores for $ 30 (which means you have to sell them in stores for $ 10-15), you should look abroad (most likely in Asia) for production. If you want to make $ 5,000 suits, you can go pretty much anywhere that knows how to make suits. But you will most likely have a hard time getting the price you want initially, so do your research and work the other way around. Remember that sometimes your margins need to be a little lower at first, as your amounts will be less.

3. Think about where the product will be manufactured: 

Price is most likely dictating this in some way, but if it's a priority (for example, part of your concept is local production), then this could be step 2. For the Sleep Shirt, we wanted to make the product. in Canada. So, I researched the factories here and I knew that my margins would be low at first because my quantities are so small. If you're open to options, do your research. Many people tend to think of China as cheap, but with its long delivery times and expensive shipping (unless you're shipping by sea), it can sometimes make sense to manufacture closer to home.

4. Start searching for manufacturers: 

That is hard. So, few garment manufacturers are easy to find online, so few good ones even have a proper website. Here are some tips:

  • Ask around. If you have industry contacts, find out who uses them.
  • Talk to your providers (if available). You may have already bought fabrics, materials or services, ask these contacts for recommendations.
  • Online searches. Very difficult and so many to classify, but I have found good ones this way.
  • Other industry sources: trade magazines, websites, trade shows, etc. they usually contain information about clothing manufacturing. You have to be a detective here, but sometimes it can be worth it.

5. Consult your manufacturer: 

Please note that you should not approach them with an "I am a customer" attitude as clothing manufacturers are difficult to work with and the good ones are precious. When addressing them, "I am a great company and I would love if you would be willing to work with me." Here are some questions to ask:

  • Are you acquiring new customers?
  • What kinds of products do you make?
  • What brands do you work for?
  • Where they manufacture (some companies may be based in one location, but manufacture in another).
  • What are the average prices?
  • What services do you offer? Can you create samples, grades, samples, tissue procurement, packaging, etc.? As a smaller company, it often makes sense to source these things from the manufacturer as they may have better purchasing power and therefore get better prices. (With that in mind, they will likely add a commission to the materials they get.)
  • What are your minimum requirements? This is the minimum quantity of products they will produce for you in one order. Don't just ask about the number of pieces, but also about the shape, colour, and size. For example, a company with a minimum of 500 pieces per order is not much, but a company that produces 500 pieces per colour and size is a completely different story when it sells 8 different styles of shoes with 4 colour options and 5 sizes in each. one (incidentally, that's a minimum order quantity of 80,000 pieces).
  • Are there any conditions for companies? What are your loan conditions? More on this below.
  • Are they scalable? You may only need 500 pieces at first, but what if you receive an order of more than 10,000? Can this factory order this size?
  • When you are satisfied with most of the answers to the questions above, it is time to test the manufacturer.

6. Send them drawings:

Now that you think you've found someone to work with, send them drawings, datasheets, fabric swatches, research, etc. Remind him of your amounts. You should also give them an approximate price (if you know what is reasonable) and ask them if it is possible for them to work at that price, and if not, how. You should be able to respond to this very quickly; a manufacturer usually knows right away whether or not they can make something.

7. Check your calendar: 

If you think this manufacturer works, make sure they have the time to help you. Give them a rough estimate of your collection and production schedule. They may not know the amounts yet, but they will do some estimates and see if they can squeeze it out. They don't want you to have a sample collection done only to find that your production is firmly booked for four months.

8. Make a sample and cost: 

Once you've confirmed the schedule, you can send them a swatch, a fabric (unless they get it), and a swatch (if you have one) and they can make an initial prototype for you. This is a great way to review their quality and build, and it also gives them an opportunity to rate the item appropriately. If changes to the sample are required, ask them to create a different one. And make sure your datasheets are 100% correct so there are no mistakes! Errors are costly.

9. Negotiate terms: 

If the employer is good and wants to work with this factory, he must negotiate (or at least accept) prices and conditions. Keep in mind that you have very little bargaining power to begin with, which is normal, but make sure you get the prices and terms you need in the future. At first, with small quantities, prices are likely to be high and margins low. But make sure you have an idea of what the prices will look like on larger orders.

10. Reserve time:

If you're happy with the deal and the sample, please reserve your time. Make sure they have a rough idea of the quantities and hours, and that they have time to produce their collection. Get this in writing!

11. Make your sample collection: 

Now you are ready to order your collection of samples that you will use to show off to buyers and ultimately the media.

12. Sell your collection:

This is the hardest part of having your own collection! Good luck.

13. Put it into production: 

Once you have a few orders or sell the product yourself, you are good to go! Place an order and be sure to contact the factory regularly. They should be holding hands frequently, so visit them once a week and make sure they are on schedule.