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How to Find a Manufacturer

9 February 2010 9 CommentsBy Sarah Shaw

bxp213797Struggling to find a manufacturer and bring your idea to life?  Trying to figure this out on your own can be a frustrating process…..and you are not alone.  Thanks to the amazing Entreprenette Experts, here are 44 tips on how to find a manufacturer.  Be sure to have a pen and paper ready because there are awesome resources in here.

1. Leverage B2B resources

How To Find A Manufacturer?

The best way to find a good manufacturer is to leverage the online B2B and Supply chain systems. We recommend setting up accounts on multiple systems including alibaba.com, thomasnet.com, and globalsource.com

Thanks to: Michael Healey  www.yeomantechnologies.com

2. Use detailed drawings to develop samples

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Make sure that you maintain and update meticulous drawings. Keep track of all drawing revisions and make sure that the manufacturer acknowledges receipt and understanding of the latest drawing revision. This is particularly important when working with overseas suppliers. Drawings are a universal language and, if prepared correctly, can allow you to develop a product without ever actually meeting or talking to anybody directly. I developed our product with a series of Emails (in English) and attached drawings. Do not rely on just Email, a collection of notes, or a certain person at the manufacturing plant. You never know when the person that knows your product intimately will leave the company or be let go

Thanks to: Fred Larson
Larson www.KyssBags.com

3. Check out your local SBA

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I worked closely with my local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and received a referral to another local wholesale manufacturer. This referral paid off in more ways than I can mention. Not only did he refer me to his manufacturer in Hong Kong, but he graciously agreed to share container space with me, savings me a lot of money. Today, I’m still working with that same manufacturer.

Thanks to: Pamela Yager   www.rxtote.com

4. Walk a Tradeshow

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I have a start-up medical device company and I can tell you how I found my manufacturer. I walked the floor of the Medical Device Manufacturers trade show at the Javitts Center in New York, and stopped at every booth that looked like it made products similar to the one I wanted to make. I asked every person I spoke with whether they were interested in working with a start-up company, and that told me right away whether the conversation would go any further. At maybe 2 or 3 booths, I got interest. Then I waited to see which ones followed up with me after the show, and I visited two manufacturers, and ended up choosing one of those two.

Thanks to: Kris Appel  www.encorepath.com

5. The Thomas Register

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My one tip is to follow this 6-step process:

1) Find a few manufacturers on Thomas Register by searching keywords relevant to your product.

2) Narrow these manufacturers based on how well their basic manufacturing capabilities mesh with your product.

3) Narrow these remaining manufacturers based on how much experience they have in bringing complete products to fruition from your starting point.

4) Narrow these last remaining manufacturers based on geography.

5) Contact and determine their interest in participating in the project.

6) Choose just one manufacturer to work with, and give him a target price (rather than using 3 or 4 manufacturers to help you develop a product, and then going with whoever gives you the lowest price in the end)

Thanks to: Steven Elliott   www.oepcouplings.com

6. Look for previous success stories

How To Find A Manufacturer?

The most important tip that start-ups need to consider when looking for someone to manufacture their product is to find a company that has done it before SUCCESSFULLY. Find a company that has a reputation for maintaining high quality, meeting production deadlines and developing partnerships with their customers. Perform reference checks by calling previous customers. Start-ups cannot afford the risk of going with a manufacturer that has not had previous success with other companies, they already have enough to worry about.

Thanks to: Andrew Miller  www.acmconsulting.ca

7. Meet them face to face

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I found my current manufacturer at an industry trade-show. Specifically, I wanted petticoats made and met them through their booth at the International Lingerie Show in Vegas. It made me feel much more at ease getting to meet them before doing business.

Thanks to: Candy Keane  www.ThreeMusesClothing.com

8. Let your fingers do the walking

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Unbelievably, you can do all your research online and find a great 
manufacturer. My advise is to search for someone who makes
something similar to your product, which is already readily available in the 
market. Also, try to find several manufacturers and get several
quotes. Their customer services is also key. If they make you feel 
like you are their # 1 customer, then you know you have a good one. 
Also beware of language barriers that arise with many overseas 
manufacturers.

Thanks to: Laura J. Mirant  www.boardbookalbums.com

9. Leverage your connections

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My ONE tip: Do not be afraid to ASK/USE friends/family/neighbors for referrals/connections!!!! My neighbor just happened to be in the garment industry 30+ yrs and had referrals/connections on where to begin to find a manufacturer here in Dallas – I’m so glad I ASKED – prevented tons of wasted time and potential screw-ups down the road!

Thanks to: Erika Ching   www.covermechiconline.com

10. Go with a middleman

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I think the best bet for someone starting out is a sourcing company if you are looking for something overseas. They will take your product description and desired materials and find a manufacturing process and price (most likely overseas) for you. Its’ best to have a middle man who will work for you and not have you try to contract China direct on your own. And pick one that doesn’t charge you an hourly rate to research the manufacturer and price.
If you are going USA, do it yourself.

Thanks to: Kelly Robinson  www.schkidules.com

11. Go global

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My ONE best tip for locating a manufacturer is utilizing the global trade site “www.alibaba.com”. 

Below is my contact information, website with photo.

Thanks to: Sunni Patterson   www.exotic-elegance-handbags.com

12. Communication is Key

How To Find A Manufacturer?

There are numerous tips as you mentioned for finding a manufactuer. This may not be what you are looking for but I believe the most important thing is to think about how you will communicate with that manufacturer. Are they on skype? will they use video? or maybe IM? Since there is such a discrepency in communication and communication styles EVEN if speaking the same language it is really important to think about this and to figure this piece out before you end up with a prototype that has you scratching your head (been there done that).

Thanks to: Margo Schlossberg   www.KuraDesign.com

13. Locate a Broker

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Most manufacturers will not deal directly with small start-ups. They prefer to deal with brokers who bring them large quantities of orders. A good broker can help you locate the best manufacturer for your specific product. Trade shows are a terrific place to find manufacturer brokers.

Thanks to: Camille Picott  www.pixiupress.com

14. Stay Local

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My one tip is to look local. I easily found a local manufacturer by just looking in the yellow pages. It does cost me a bit more to manufacture, but I am so close it is easy for me to be on top of quality control. I also have a great relationship with my manufacturer because I meet with the owner all the time. If I need something fast or a small run, my manufacturer really tries to accommodate me. It is also nice to have on my label that my products are Made in Canada – another reason to support local businesses.

Thanks to: Catherine Decelles  www.mountainblueeyes.com

15. Tweet it out

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I’m a 14-year-old entrepreneur with a five year old business called Pencil Bugs. We (my parents and I) have been hand making my products since I started but last year we decided that if I was ever going to be able to expand into bigger retails stores, I would need a manufacturer. Last spring, I posted a few tweets on Twitter asking if anyone had manufacturing connections and one of my followers responded. We have been working with a manufacturer since then to get my Pencil Bugs mass-produced. We had hoped that the deal would be finished by now but as I’ve learned, there are many, many steps in the process and lots of times you run into unexpected things which cause delays. But at least the manufacturer is in the US and has part ownership of factories in Asia, so we don’t have to go direct which is even harder. So that’s my advice. Send out tweets about what you’re looking for.

Thanks to: Jason O’Neill  www.pencilbugs.com

16. Go virtual

How To Find A Manufacturer?

MFG.com is a Web-based sourcing marketplace for manufacturing, connecting people who need something made with suppliers locally or around the world. It was founded 10 years ago by entrepreneur Mitch Free and has been called a virtual factory.

Thanks to: John Q. Pope   www.MFG.com

17. Protect yourself

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Make sure you have intellectual property, or at least “patent pending” status from a low-cost provisional patent application, and make sure the manufacturer understands that you are seeking protection to decrease the risk that the manufacturer will take the concept for themselves or for a partner. Theft of the innovation is one of the nine major “innovation fatigue factors” documented in the book, _Conquering Innovation Fatigue. _Most contract manufacturers are ethical, but the few that aren’t can cause a lot of pain. Intellectual property is often not taken seriously enough by entrepreneurs, but it can make the difference between success and failure.

Thank to: Jeff Lindsay 
  http://www.innovationfatigue.com

18. Make way for an expert

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Don’t do it yourself. Find a licensing partner and let an expert manufacture your product. I wish I’d learned that lesson earlier.

Thanks to: Ted Scofield  www.sexyslang.com

19. Talk the talk

How To Find A Manufacturer?

The best tip I can give to a new start-up especially finding a manufacturer would be to first tap a friend for a referral or ask a relative who has an engineering background. They can give you a crash course in learning new terms, methods, product materials, etc. If it wasn’t for my nephews (four brothers are engineers) I probably would have given up or been taken for a ride. When I finally met with my manufacturer and did a tour of their facilities, I believe I put my husband and the rep in silent mode when I was able to identify the machines and various methods they offered (laser-cutting vs. water jet vs. die cut) for my product, and was able to discuss intelligently which method of manufacturing would fit my product at my cost. Not too bad for a girly-girl.

Thanks to: Jeanne Koester  www.roadragejewelry.com

20. Crack the language code

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Check out this website http://www.alibaba.com for manufacturers overseas, using Google Language tool as a way to communicate via email if needed (ie different languages)

Thanks to: Lisa Illman    http://kritterkommunity.com

21. Sourcing agents rock

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I used a China Sourcing Agent for my new Lunchbox System which I had manufactured in China. I found a fantastic company headed by Wen Yan, called ChinaOne Imports. 
I felt completely ill-equipped to communicate and negotiate with foreign manufacturing companies, so turning the overseas communication over to her company was the best move I could have made to start my business! I cannot say enough good things about her and the service she offered, from start to finish. We have a very high quality, well made product, manufactured to our exact specifications. She made the process stress free and affordable. Wen Yan is at www.ChinaOneImports.com

Thanks to: Kelly Leste  
EasyLunchboxes.com

22. Look at the BIG picture

How To Find A Manufacturer?

TIP: First check the databases such as Alibaba or industry specific for manufacturing close to your product type, make contact, and work down your vertical by asking the manufacturers who they work with (they’ll more often than not connect you directly to a person).
This helped us to locate manufacturers not only in China and Southeast Asia, but also link back to companies in the US that produce more finished goods that we need; this led to relationships both up and down the line in the US, leading us full circle to greatly broaden our manufacturing options. It really is amazing how it all branches out.

Thanks to: Alec W. Bowers   www.DiatConcepts.com

23. Go back to school

How To Find A Manufacturer?

The internet is a great way to find a manufacturer – it helps to first identify the type of equipment or technology you would require to make your product. If you are not sure, visit your local University, especially if they have a Small Business Development Center or meet with their Mechanical Engineering Department. Alibaba.com is a great site that even the Fortune 500 use to find manufacturers. Once finding and screening a list, it is important to consider the cost, the lead time to make an order, the transit time, the minimum run size, any investment or tooling costs, the payment terms, the quality, and stability of the business. Too often we select the cheapest manufacturer only to find ourselves bulging with too much capital tied up in inventory. We have a software program called Phitch that helps small businesses simulate suppliers to select the best one financially. Finally, it is very important to visit the site and meet the team. I have seen many factories look very different that their picture. Clear communication and expectations are essential – find your go to person.

Thanks to: John Krech   www.phitch.com

24. Find the right person

How To Find A Manufacturer?

ONE best tip for finding a manufacturer for a product:
Do an online search for a “sourcing consultant” in your area. A
reputable sourcing consultant can connect you with the right people to
manufacture your product.

Thanks to: Tangela Walker-Craft  www.simplynecessary.com

25. Clear communication is key

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Here’s my tip for finding manufacturers and working with them: 
”Clear communication from the outset. Lay out the expectations for your collaboration up front, preferably in writing. This should include what will happen in case of late delivery, unsatisfactory quality and other things that might go wrong. Make sure the manufacturer understands your needs, and make sure you get an understanding of how the manufacturer works

Thanks to: Ari Helgason    http://fabricly.com

26. Ask a lot of questions

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My best tip:To not be afraid of asking a lot of questions and be in the learner mode.” Some manufacturers will not take the time to answer questions and don’t have the patience.  These are not the right ones. You will eventually come across a manufacture that is happy to help and guide you, that is the kind of manufacture that will make your business that much easier.

Thanks to: Jennifer Bunkers  www.velocitysourcegroup.com

27. Easy search tool

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My tip is to use www.mfg.com. You can search by any type of manufacturing process, location and industry. It is free to use for potential customers.

Thanks to: Michael Araten   www.knex.com

28. Search the world at your fingertips

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Thomasnet.com lists all the manufacturers in the US. Alibaba.com lists worldwide manufacturers.

Thanks to: Mary Pitman, President Sunblock Enterprises

29. Trust is important

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Start with small quantities to test quality and ensure it’s a manufacturer
you can trust to ship quickly and efficiently.

Thanks to: Nina Alexander-Hurst   
www.BlackberryTrackballs.com

30. Round the world in 3 days flat

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My tip is to use the internet and do a good search – something is bound to come up if you use the right terms. That internet is a wonderful tool that obliterates the boundaries to find and communicate with companies that might have what you need. The entire process took about three days! Luckily I found one company whose quote was nearly half the cost of the other four bids I received.

Thanks to: Sid Holmes  www.mirrormatemitts.com

31. Cut and sew you are good to go

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I highly recommend http://www.aibi.com/ for recommendations for any type of cut/sew manufacturer. It’s where they need to start! They have an amazing book with a list of area cut/sew that come recommended.

Thanks to: Peg Mischler 
 www.taygaaprons.com

32. I owe it all to the library

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My tip – the Thomas Register is a wonderful and often unknown/unused directory that is filled with manufacturers. When I first began, I used the public library’s copy of the Thomas Register – now it’s available online. I still use it on a regular basis when adding to my collection.

Thanks to: Pamela Meltzer   www.puppypaws.com

33. Leverage Leverage Leverage

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My tip would be to work with a reputable and talented sourcing person base in the US that has experience sourcing for your target market. [Hopefully they have sourced a very similar product.]  They will help with communication, find an appropriate factory, and perhaps more importantly provide leverage in the development process.  This leverage comes from the promise of future business, possibly an existing relationship, and experience; its key in encouraging the factory to provide enough attention to your product in the development process.  They may also assist with quality control during the products lifespan, which can also be very useful.  An alternative is to work with American manufacturers, at least for your initial run. Communication is easier and you often have more resources if quality is not up to par.

Thanks to: Scott Doty   www.scott-doty.com

34. Look to similar products

How To Find A Manufacturer?

As a recent start-up I feel uniquely qualified to offer my two cents. My ONE best tip is: 

Contact retailers who offer a product similar to yours and ask them who makes theirs. I did and now run a thriving business selling The Tote Buddy.

Thanks to: Julie Zizka   www.TheToteBuddy.com

35. To Asia we go

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Made-in-China.com is an online trade portal that allows US buyers to connect directly with China-based manufacturers.

Thanks to: Autumn Conrad  www.360jmg.com

36. Kid friendly tip

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I’m a mompreneur and the founder of Teach My, an award winning learning kit for babies and toddlers. The important thing to keep in mind if you are producing a product for children under the age of 12 is that there are strict regulations on lead and you should educate yourself on them.

Thanks to: Christy Cook   

www.teachmy.com

37. Loyal to Linkedin

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I am a First time game designer with no prior industry experience. 

The best tip: Join LinkedIn manufacturing groups and groups with other inventors and ask questions.

Thanks to: Shari Sopourn  
www.bailoutthegame.com

38. Network with other inventors

How To Find A Manufacturer?

I deal with this quite a bit. There are two places I can recommend. One is using the persons local Inventors Association to network with other inventors to try and find a match. The main inventors association of associations is www.UIAUSA.org. The other place would be marketing associations like ours. We have a lot of people looking to get their product sold on TV or in mail order catalogs and need a manufacturer, so we work to find one that matches their particular needs.

Thanks to: John Schulte   http://www.nmoa.org

39. Let’s toast to this one

How To Find A Manufacturer?

It’s really not hard.  Go on google and search Contract Manufacturer (name of product) and you should be able to find all sort of good results and companies to work with. That’s what I did with my product, The Hangover Cure.

Thanks to: Anthony Adams   www.drinkthc.com

40. Ask the right questions

How To Find A Manufacturer?

As an entrepreneur running a startup in consumer products, one tip I’d recommend is ask the right questions! For clothing – How can we source more fabrics?  When are your busy seasons and what would the delay be?  What are your exact prices? Transparency is important and you need to know if the supplier will treat you the right way, otherwise, you will either have to deal and pass on that information to your consumers, or find a better supplier if that’s at all feasible.

Thanks to: Danny Wong  www.blank-label.com

41. Think globally act locally

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My best tip is manufacture locally. I wanted to be able to make changes quickly, DRIVE down to talk to my manufacturer/fulfillment company, keep jobs local and lower our carbon footprint

Thanks to: Maxine Tatlonghari  www.VanityGirlHollywood.com

42. Safety first

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Here are a few tips for start-ups looking for a manufacturer:

1)  Make sure the prospective manufacturer is aware of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (through the Consumer Product Safety Commission) which took place in 2008 and which created new safety regulations for production, whether domestic or offshore.  If the supplier is clueless, move on to the next one.

2)  Check references and ask to see products they have made before that are similar to your new product line.

3)  Ask if they will cooperate for production testing.  Again, if they are clueless, move on.

Thanks to: Edie Tolchin  www.egtglobaltrading.com

43. Go Craigslist!

How To Find A Manufacturer?

Perhaps overlooked as a manufacturing source, Craigslist is a good source for small businesses in the clothing industry. On Craigslist, small businesses can find well experienced seamstresses who are fully equipped and ready to handle small garment production. Such seamstresses are ideal for smaller companies who are often turned away by big manufacturing companies with large minimum restrictions. My company is currently using the expertise of such a seamstress to produce our upcoming line. From pants to tunics, each garment she has produced stands up to our high level of quality. And we found her on Craigslist.

Thanks to: Taqwa Aquil  www.TaqwaIman.com

44. Private Label

How To Find A Manufacturer?

My suggestion is for those with limited funds and/or experience who are looking for a manufacturer.  If you only have one item to offer and not a line of products try to find a manufacturer that makes a similar or complementary item.  They may be able to private label mfg this item for you and also sell and distribute it as well.  You will most likely have smaller minimums and shorter lead time as well if they are already running similar materials. You might also be able to have their sales team market, sell and distribute your product along with their line if it a complentary product.  This will save you a ton in upfront costs.   A lot of the large retailers do not want to work with a single item vendor and prefer working with one that has numerous items in their line.  If you only have one item and limited funds you can either negotiate for a royalty or set your manufacturer up as a distributor of your product.  Be sure to have a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement signed before you have any manufacturer take over making your item that also makes similar or competing products.

Thanks to: Jeanne Krieg    www.drymate.com

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9 Comments »

  • Robin Humphrey said:

    Wow! Thanks for the plethora of invaluable information! There are some great resources in here I would have never found on my own.

  • In the Media – Camille Picott talks about Finding a Manufacturer « My Blog said:

    [...] Gazette, interviewed me and other small business owners on How to Find a Manufacturer. Full article here. I provided tip #13. I learned how to find a manufacturer when I decided to sell custom-made dolls [...]

  • Mike Michalowicz said:

    This is an amazing list of resources, Sarah. Thank you for compiling this!

    - Mike

  • becky said:

    This is crazy good. I have been searching for a few days now, and this is just what i needed. thanks for sharing everyones tips.

  • Contract Auction said:

    You can post or bid on manufacturing jobs for free at http://www.contractauction.com. You can post or bid on anything from clothing to machine shop work.

  • Matthew said:

    I am looking for a manufacturer in the USA for a new product, single use baby bottles. We need a manufacturer who has the ability to assist in fnial design and is willing to consider using biodegradable materials.

  • Kathleen Fasanella said:

    I have two other suggestions.

    First, acquaint yourself with the lingo particular to your industry. I can only speak to apparel but looking for a clothing manufacturer will be slim pickings as compared to looking for a sewing contractor.

    Two, never hire someone in an earlier process who cannot refer you to a party in the next step of the process. Ex: I’m a pattern maker. I will not take a client if I don’t have a production resource for their product type. If someone cannot refer you, it means they haven’t developed relationships with colleagues which could mean they’re not as experienced (shouldn’t charge as much if they’re new) or no contractor wants to sew their patterns.

  • Daniel Eriksson said:

    If you are looking for Asian outsourcing, you need to have someone that visits the factory on site and get a sample for you. There is no way this could be trusted solely on the phone or email.
    Otherwise good list of tools!

    Daniel
    -CFS

  • Jason S said:

    I would agree will most of the comments here. Finding a manufacturer or anything for that matter is not all that hard. You just have to start looking; if you don’t, you’ll never find what you’re looking for.

    For me, some of the most help tools were Google and seeking out trade magazines in the industry I was operating. With technology as advanced as it is today, there is a wealth of knowledge at our finger tips. Go out there and find what you want!

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