When it comes to sourcing a supplier outside your nation’s borders, it can be hard to build and maintain a long-lasting professional relationship.
If you’re unsure where to begin, start by using online platforms such as ThomasNet, Maker’s Row, MFG and Kompass, which can serve as an initial business directory for contacts. You could also head to manufacturing and trade fairs, including the twice-yearly China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) in Guangzhou.
Once you’ve created a shortlist of factories, it’s important to ensure you have a clear sense of what you want, how much you are willing to pay, and what turnaround time you are after before you begin contacting suppliers.
Another important factor to consider is quality control, not just of the item itself, but its packaging, labelling and how it will be delivered to you. Have a test run by ordering samples first, before committing to a contract. It’s also a good idea to ask that your samples be made using the same machinery and techniques as the final pieces, as they can often be different, leading to significant changes.
And, just remember, working with startups is as much of a gamble for manufacturers as it is for investors. Steph Korey, co-founder of suitcase brand Away, says, “Manufacturers almost have the same perspective as investors: ‘You need to convince me that this is a real business opportunity for me, or else it’s just not worth my time.’”