How Can I Find a Manufacturer for a Product?
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.Your first goal should be to seek information, not necessarily find your final manufacturing partner. An abundance of online resources can help you get this process started. Some sites that can help are Thomasnet.com, Tdctrade.com or Alibaba.com.
There are also public resources that can assist you. If you are in the U.S., most states have programs offering support and manufacturing resources. For example, in California there are the Centers for International Trade and Development.
There are also Small Business Development Centers in most communities.
Use these resources to find a plant that can produce a prototype or sample of your product. A prototype is going to be one of the most important resources your business can have. You'll use it to show potential buyers your product, so don't skimp on it.
Once you get your prototype or samples in hand, go to a tradeshow that serves your target market. If you can't find tradeshows online or in publications, you can ask retailers which trade associations they are affiliated with and which trade magazines they read.
It's common for new businesses to come to trade shows with nothing more than a prototype. In addition to getting product feedback at tradeshows and some potential orders, you can meet a number of manufacturers who may make competitive offers for your business.
You can use this opportunity to find people with noncompeting products and ask for their factory representatives as well. In addition, factory representatives often troll these shows for new customers. Those who think they can make your product will likely introduce themselves if you make yourself known. Choosing a manufacturer to work with comes down to the basics of knowing your numbers. You have to find one that is cost effective for your business.
Consider these points before you hire or form a partnership with any manufacturer.
1. Check whether the manufacturer has all of the right equipment. If the manufacturer doesn't have the right equipment, it might still agree to take on your products, but it may charge you for the equipment it needs to buy, either as an upfront charge or by charging you a higher cost per product.
2. Find a manufacturer with an underused plant. Every manufacturer has overhead, or fixed costs that it needs to pass on to the products it produces, so the fewer products it produces, the higher overhead cost per product.
3. Look into the manufacturer's financial status. While you want a manufacturer with an underused plant to offer you concessions, you don't want a company that's in trouble, or that can be real trouble for you and your customers.