Get Your Product Figured Out First
Let me know if this story sounds familiar.
You just came up with a business idea. You spent four hours thinking about a catchy business name. You spent two hours coming up with a tag line.
You spent $500 to have four logos made. You spent three hours asking your friends to choose their favorite. You spent two hours figuring out why none of your friends liked the same logo as you.
You spent $2,000 having a friend build you a cheap website. You spent four hours mocking it up. You spent three hours asking your friends if they like it.
You spent $100 asking your dad’s friend who is in your industry to create a prototype. You showed it to 200 of your closest friends who all politely told you it was an awesome product.
You spent four hours setting up your social media pages. You invited all your friends to follow you. You judged your friends based on whether or not they liked your Facebook page.
You spent four hours coming up with a nifty business card and spent $100 to have them made. You’ve handed out four of them. Three of them were given to relatives.
God only knows how much additional time you’ve spent looking back and admiring your work.
But you forgot one thing.
You haven’t found a factory to make your product. A factory that has reasonable minimums. At a price that sounds right to you. And you have no idea how to find one.
Which means you have no business. No company. No brand. And all that money spent and hours working were for naught.
I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs that have fallen into this same problem. It’s because the order of this story is all wrong.
I hope I can help change it so you don’t run into the same wall.
Don’t Do a Damn Thing Until You Find a Factory
You are not a brand or a company until your products are made.
Let me say that again – you are NOT a brand or a company UNTIL your products are made.
So don’t spend another minute judging logos or telling all your friends about your company (that doesn’t even exist) until you have the manufacturing side completely figured out. COMPLETELY figured out.
Yikes. Sorry for yelling.
Anyway, there are some great and easy resources out there to find yourself a factory. Here’s a short list that I hope you find useful.
1. Find the right tradeshow.
There’s just no more efficient way to find a factory from the other side of the world than at a single tradeshow. So hop on Google, use a few different search terms and identify some tradeshows in your industry. Then spend an hour on the phone making sure you find the one tradeshow (and there’s always one) that has factories exhibiting at that tradeshow. Because not all tradeshows have a manufacturing section.
For example, if you’re in the fashion business, there are tradeshows literally every month. However, the tradeshow to attend is MAGIC in Las Vegas. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of factories from all over the world all who exhibit at MAGIC. If you’re looking to make shoes, you’ll probably find at least 30 factories there in person with samples, styles and salespeople. How awesome is that?
No matter your industry, you will likely find a similar tradeshow that has factories exhibiting. There is quite simply no better way to find your manufacturer than to sit and talk with them in person at a tradeshow.
Related: Stop Pretending and Just Be Yourself
Many of you by now have heard of Alibaba as the Chinese company taking on Amazon. But did you know that Alibaba started out as, and still is, the best resource to find factories from all over the world? It essentially serves as a listing service for these factories while you get to search (and contact them) for free.
Spend a few hours on Alibaba searching, reading and emailing factories from all over the world. Order samples from them to test their quality. Read reviews to ensure they are clean and honest business partners. It’s the next best thing to a tradeshow.
3. Maker’s Row.
A newer website that has recently popped up in the last few years is similar to Alibaba, but it instead serves as a listing service for factories here in the U.S. I personally did not have any luck on Maker's Row when I needed it for my new business but I have heard great stories about those who did. Again, a free resource not to be ignored.
Some Parting Advice
Be prepared when you contact or speak with a factory. Do your best to learn some industry lingo or important details about the products (e.g., if you’re in apparel, figuring out the type of fabric or textile you’re looking for.)
Ask about minimums. Delivery times. Manufacturing techniques. Anything that you can think of. The more comprehensive your questions, the more seriously the factory will believe in you. And if you’re going to a tradeshow, bring your prototype with you. Or bring some samples of items similar to what you’re trying to create.
Then after you’ve found your factory and placed your order, you can spend less than one hour in the comment section below telling me about your awesome new company.
Greg Shugar is Co-Founder of Thread Experiment, the world’s first brand of home bedding dedicated to men. Greg originally founded The Tie Bar and grew it into a $20 million business before a private-equity firm acquired the brand. Greg is now CEO of Shugar Consulting, which specializes in helping new retail brands emerge in the ecommerce and wholesale space. He also regularly speaks on topics related to entrepreneurship and teaches an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp course at Florida Atlantic University. Prior to launching Thread Experiment and The Tie Bar, Shugar was a practicing attorney in Chicago for eight miserable years.