Are you thinking about starting a product-based business? Before you can successfully operate and legalize this business, you’ll need to have a product to sell. In order to have a product to sell, you’ll need to find a company to manufacture your product.
If that sounds like a complicated journey to business ownership, it’s because it can be. Don’t fret: there are manufacturers for every kind of product out there, and your product is no different.
Finding the right manufacturer is a similar process to starting a business; it’s about knowing what you want, doing the upfront research and being brave enough to go for it. We’ll begin with a readiness checklist — here’s what you need to have before you meet with manufacturers:
Before you pursue a partnership with a manufacturer, make sure you have these basics covered:
Establish a Need
Before you sign a big product manufacturing contract with a vendor, make sure there’s demand for your product. Perform extensive market research, observe your ideal consumer and make sure that your product is a hit before you commit.
Perfect Your Prototype
Prototypes aren’t just valuable for visualizing your product concepts and testing your products effectiveness and overall functionality. Prototypes are often inherently necessary to begin a partnership with a manufacturer. Even the best manufacturers in the business will need to see a complete concept of your product before they can reproduce it.
Your prototype needs to be as close as possible to a working model or MVP (minimum viable product). Here’s more on how to prototype your product effectively.
It’s important to protect your product, concept and any related intellectual property (IP) with patents, copyrights and trademarks.
Secure Product Liability Insurance
Before most reputable manufacturers will work with you, you’ll need to protect your product with liability insurance that covers your product during manufacturing, in transit and in warehousing. Liability insurance is advised for any type of business, but especially for product-based businesses.
Once you have these things in place, it’s time to start thinking about the type of manufacturer that would best suit your needs.
Establish Your Priorities
In addition to your business model, product type and mission statement, your brand will also play a big role in how you prioritize your product manufacturer. Dive deep into your brand persona, as well as your market research, to decide whether public opinion of how your product is sourced should play a role in this decision.
Depending on what your company and product require, you’ll want to limit your list of potential manufacturers to those that can not only meet, but exceed your expectations:
If your goal is to get your product on “big box” shelves, keeping costs low will be a key factor in your search for the ideal product manufacturer.
If your business offers product personalization, you may need to look local to find a manufacturer that can promise quick turnaround times on your orders.
When it comes to manufacturing, peace of mind is everything. Going with a trusted and experienced supply vendor ensures this major arm of your business is in good hands.
How eco-friendly is your brand? If this is important to you and your customers, be sure that you’re sourcing your product through a manufacturer that can produce and distribute your products with minimal carbon consumption.
Whether it’s 7,000 miles away in rural China, or our neighbors to the South in Mexico, participating in global commerce often results in a win-win. How you source your product can not only shape the story of your business, but it can also transform communities.
What does it mean to you, your business’ mission and your consumers to have “Made in the USA” on the bottom of your products? No community in any country wants to see a large employer shut down. However, you may have direct ties to a local factory (or the community that the factory supports), that motivates you to choose a U.S.-based manufacturer.
Start Online to Find a Manufacturer
The quickest and most efficient way to find a manufacturer for your product is going to be a quick Google search, unless you already have a product manufacturer directory of choice.
Closely consider your priorities as you dig through the lists of manufacturers and suppliers. This could optimize the terms you use in your search. We’ve pulled together a few of the top directories to get you started:
In addition to these directories, you should also poll your network for potential manufacturers. Contact business partners and colleagues. Put out a post on your social channels. You might get one response, or you might get a thousand.
The manufacturer you choose could come from the most obscure source, or it could come highly recommended from numerous trusted sources. You won’t know until you start your search.
Interview Ideal Suppliers
Once you’ve established a pool of suitable manufacturers, the next step is to start answering the big questions: What is your minimum order? What is your price? What is your turnaround?
Starting with these three questions is the quickest way to find out whether a given manufacturer is within your budget and is willing and able to produce products at a rate that you’re comfortable with. If minimum required orders are too lofty for your initial budget, you’ll have to search elsewhere. Likewise, if a manufacturer doesn’t have the capacity to support your sales, it’s not the right fit.
Be firm, but reasonable, with your demands. Keep your initial emails and phone calls short and to the point, until it’s clear that a given manufacturer meets your logistical requirements for how to manufacture your product. From there, you can discuss all the particulars of what you’re looking for in the perfect vendor.
Seal the Deal In Person
Your manufacturer is too integral to your business’ success to cut corners. While there is a great deal of information you can glean from online research and conversations with a manufacturer prospect, it’s critical to see your product manufacturing plants in person. This affords you the opportunity to truly see the conditions of the warehouse.
It’s important to take the time to meet with staff at all levels in the factory. Really get to know the people who will be making, quality testing and distributing your product. As a product-based business, your product is your business. You can’t afford unsafe conditions, disorganization, empty promises or other liabilities to derail your business. It might just be one missed order that snowballs your brand reputation.
Whether you’ve already started opening up tabs of potential product manufacturers, or you’re still in the initial research phase of your product-based business, Incfile can help get your business licensed, your IP protected or your business started, with easy online forms and 24/7 customer support.