5 Pitfalls To Avoid When Choosing A Manufacturer For Your Startup

It’s easy to make mistakes when selecting a manufacturer for your product.  Avoid these 5 Common Pitfalls.

When I launched my footwear line, I went through countless factories, agents and sourcing companies before finding the right fit.  After years of trial and error, there are some tricks that I picked up along the way.

  1. The right address is important:  There are pros and cons to using sourcing agents, but be clear as to what you are getting into from the start.  If your invoice has a Hong Kong address, it’s most likely a sourcing company who is outsourcing the production to a factory in China.  For the best price, you want to go directly to the manufacturer because an agent will mark up the quotes and leave you with an artificially inflated price.
  2. It’s Location Location Location.  Just like New York is known for Italian food and Texas is known for it’s BBQ different regions specialize in product types.  For example; when I was sourcing shoes, I wanted my factory to be in Guangzhou for the high-end models or Xiamen or more budget conscious lines.  The factories in those regions will be more adept at making your product and you will run into less of a learning curve.
  3. Beware of telephone Tag:  Everything takes longer than you think when working with Asia.  Their work day starts when you close your laptop for dinner and it can be up to 24 hours to have your questions answered.  Samples take 3 days to arrive via Fedex before the sampling process even begins.  In a situation where it’s already difficult to communicate (I said green, I made you green…then why is it blue?) make sure that the factory representative is responsive from the start. If they are slow with your inquiries from the beginning, keep looking.
  4. Stay Clear of Chinese New Year:  Most manufacturers are closed for at least two weeks during Chinese New Year and no production takes place during this time. Much like the holidays here, many employees go back to their hometowns and it takes time for everyone to come back to work.  CYN typically lands around the end of January, the dates change every year.  If you have a time sensitive order, make sure it’s placed by the end of December and on the boat before CYN.  Otherwise, you can expect to wait a month before production is back in full swing.
  5. Confirm the Quality Control: There will be a percentage of your order that arrives as seconds, it’s par for the course. I once received a whole box of left feet…not kidding.  Just agree upon the percentage up front.  While you should expect about 0.5 – 2% of your order to be defective, the rest is expected to be in compliance with your product specs.  Before the product ships, be sure to collect batch samples yourself to ensure quality standards are being met.
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