I teach emerging online fashion boutique owners how to crack the code of eCommerce success for a life of uncapped income, flexibility and fun.
Hi, I'm Jodie
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Today I am talking about all things products, how to source products to sell, or how to manufacture your own products. Hopefully you have a bit of an idea around what it is that you want to sell. You have maybe already created a prototype or sample or something like that. Manufacturing because manufacturing is not for the faint hearted. It’s very rewarding, but it’s also quite time consuming, and expensive and frustrating. So first of all, I’m going to chat with you about how to get your own products made, whether you’re a designer, whether you have got a creative vision. Either way, generally speaking, I have a fashion business and I’m not a fashion designer, you don’t have to be designer, you don’t have to be an inventor, to get your own products made you need to have an idea and a vision. And then the rest, you can work together with a manufacturer in order to bring it to life.
Now, like I said, hopefully you’ve got a burning idea or passion for a particular idea or concept and you believe people will be excited to buy it. The first step in having your very own product manufactured is to find a manufacturer who is making something similar for example, denim jeans. You see manufacturers specialise in different garments or products, not one manufacturer can make all of the things. They often require specific technologies or equipment and skills in order to make different types of products. So obviously I have a fashion business so I will use all things fashion as my example. So a denim manufacturer, so a denim factory who produces but denim jeans, denim jackets, anything cotton denim, is going to be very different in the skills that they use in sewing the stitching, in the technologies that they need versus say a swimwear manufacturer who specialises in stretch fabrics like lycra, which would need different techniques used in order to stitch it together. So what you need to first of all do is find someone, start researching manufacturers who are already making something along the lines of what it is that you want to make. So whether you weren’t making denim, or maybe it’s ladies garments, resort wear, swimwear, activewear, you need to find a manufacturer that ideally specialises in that and already produces those garments for other clients. Now, there’s a few different ways to actually find one of these manufacturers and the first and probably you know in an ideal world would be the easiest way is to ask for suggestions for others if they’re willing to share.
Now, ideally, you’d have a generous friend or a good relationship with a colleague that is either in the know or has experience in using particular factories and is happy to introduce you.However, not all businesses are willing to share this information. There’s a few reasons why. Like I said, manufacturing is not for the faint hearted, everything generally runs late, they’re generally always very busy and there’s always a lot of delays. So if, for example, my key manufacturer is already really late with my own things, my orders, and you know, it’s frustrating for me, I’m not necessarily willing to share their details for them to sign on new clients, which might then slow down my own production. So that’s one reason why people don’t want to share.
Another reason is it takes a really long time to nurture relationships and find great manufacturers. And there’s a lot of work that goes into it, and they just may not want to share, they might just want to hold those cards very close to their chest for their own reasons. So if you do have someone that you know, that has a relationship with a manufacturer, and you ask them, it’s 50/50, they might share, they might not share. So don’t be surprised that they have, they would have their own reasons for not wanting to share and you would need to respect that because like I said, it’s not easy. I mean, even in my seven, eight years of business, I have had many manufacturing relationships, some that I no longer work with and some that I’m just getting started with. It’s not necessarily something that you want to just jump in and share all of those kinds of industry information.
So let’s say that that option isn’t available to you. The next option is to get familiar with alibaba.com. Now I know it’s got a pretty bad reputation of having lots of just junk on there. However they the listings on there are factories, they’re manufacturers that would specialise in certain garments. It’s a great place to start and to create a shortlist of manufacturers that you can reach out to. Now a really important note, when you start looking on alibaba.com, many of the photos you see on there for product listings are ripped off from other brands and it’s not something they themselves have made. They’re using those images illegally mind you and unethically dare I say, in order to say and bring in clients and say like we can make things like this.
So it’s really important when you start narrowing down a list of potential options that you ask them, Did you in fact, make the garment in this listing? Sometimes it’s really obvious that they didn’t you know, if it’s a designer brand, I’ve seen plenty of spell collections and whatnot, spell designs on there. And I know that they wouldn’t be, you know, making their products. So you need to ask them specifically, did you make this product? If not, can you show me some photos of recent work that you’ve done, because you will probably find that that will help narrow down the list a little bit more once you see the type of products that they make.
Once you have got a shortlist it’s worth, it’s really important to ask them what their minimum order quantities are because often they can turn around and say you know, it’s 100 minimum per colour per style, which is a lot when you’re starting out, I don’t even do that now with new products, I will for tested proven products, I will go you know and make hundreds but in the very beginning I like to do if I can do 30, I’ll do 30 If I can do 50, that’s where that’s kind of my starting point. And so for anyone starting out, I would not recommend going all in on 100 per colour per style. Because what you’ll find is you think it’ll be easy to sell 100 of that same dress. But in reality, if you’re a new business, it isn’t that easy. And you might find yourself 5 and then you have 95 sitting on the shelf, which is really depressin
g. So that’s really, really crucial because you might find a great product, a great manufacturer and their prices look great, but they might turn around and say but you have to make 1000 of these things and that’s not uncommon. So that again will help cull that list to find someone that suitable. And also, by just chatting with him on the Alibaba platform, you will get an idea of how responsive, they are their communication skills, whether they seem like a good fit for you. So I would absolutely recommend starting conversations with at least three to five different manufacturers, the more the better, really. So that you can get, you know, narrow that down and once you find someone that you like, either order a sample. Ideally, if you have an idea for a product, you have some sort of design, sketch, or picture or image, if you’ve got some measurements, great, you can have them straightaway make a sample for the garment you want.
Okay, so let’s say that manufacturing sounds like it’s all far too much work. And right now you have a concept, or an idea of an online store that you want to launch that sells a curation of products and other people’s brands rather than manufacturing your own. It’s definitely easier. There’s always pros and cons for both but perhaps you want to even test the waters with say, for example, so you want to start a business selling. I don’t know, let’s say candles, for example, you maybe don’t want to go all in and on manufacturing lots and lots of candles, you first want to test the waters by selling somebody else’s brand. So finding different ways and different brands to sell, there’s a few different ways you can do this. So you can reach out to brands directly perhaps you follow them on Instagram or on Facebook. You’re on their mailing list so you can reach out to them directly and say ‘hey, do you sell wholesale to other businesses?’ A lot of brands like myself like iland co. do, but there will be a set of criteria that a wholesale customer needs to meet in order for us to sell to them they need to order a minimum amount of dollar amount of products they obviously have to have a shop. They’re reselling and we often have rules and things around you know you can’t go and undercut us with the price and splashed all over the internet.
You know there’s so there’ll be set certain rules calls and terms and conditions around that. But it’s a great way to start out and often they already have photos, which is super, super helpful. You can just get their photos and upload it straight to your website, you don’t have to look at doing photo shoots and things like that. So that’s one way reaching out to existing brands that you like, reach out to them directly and ask them if they do wholesale? If so, do they have a lookbook, or an order form? And what is the minimum order that you’ve got to make with them in order to get that, that wholesale discount,