Too Small to Work with a Factory? Consider Buying Wholesale
If you are a small buyer wanting to produce with a large factory, the chances of them taking on your order are very slim. Large factories have MOQ’s (minimum order quantities) to meet in order to stay profitable, and they are likely busy with current customers (or else they would lower the MOQ). While you may not be able to set-up the manufacturing scenario of your dreams, there are several options for getting started on your entrepreneurial journey.
Start off selling wholesale
Let’s say that you want to launch a line of designer umbrellas. To create a custom shape, a signature line of prints and colors, and a certain handle, will require a big order as a factory would need to test the design, print custom fabric, and buy other materials specifically for your order. An alternative to this is to find a supplier or wholesaler already making umbrellas that you like, and then buy those to re-sell under your brand name. Then, as you sell and start to (hopefully) make money, you’ll be able to afford a larger manufacturing run, or attract investors or friends and family who are willing to support your growth.
A bonus is that some wholesalers will allow you to customize certain parts of a stock product, often in low quantities. For example, you could print a brand logo or fun graphics on your line of umbrellas. The screen-printing minimum is likely to be much lower than an order that requires completely custom-dyed fabric, sewing patterns, etc. AliExpress is a great site that can help you to find wholesalers and suppliers with stock items. Here is an example of a search for ‘umbrellas.’ Not bad!
Order materials from a wholesaler, find a local producer
Another way to get started is to search a site like AliExpress for wholesalers that supply the materials that you need, and then find a local supplier or contract sewer to produce a small quantity of your product. Read this post about working with home sewers. You may have to compromise on the aesthetics of your original design or concept (i.e. you imagined a certain purple and the wholesaler only has blue, green and gray available), but sometimes getting started is more important than a perfect design.
It’s common to order things such as fabric, zippers, or buttons from a wholesaler in quantities of 10 to several thousand. While unit costs will be higher, the total investment required to buy 100 rubber pads from a wholesaler versus producing 5,000 with a larger factory makes it an attractive solution. If your local producer is willing to assemble your product in very small quantities (10-50 units per order), it’s still a good idea to weigh the benefits of ordering in higher quantities from the wholesaler (depending on their cost breaks), and storing the materials until they are needed.