How to Approach a Manufacturer with Your Product Idea?
You’ve worked hard on your jewelry designs, and you’re positive they’ll be a hit, but you don’t have a manufacturer yet. Anxiety is eating you up, and in some moments, you find yourself wondering if you’ll find a manufacturer who believes in your product ideas as much as you do. If there is a manufacturer out there that believes in you as much as you believe in yourself and your idea. Sounds familiar?
Understandably, this a challenge to most entrepreneurs in the fashion industry, specifically the jewelry sector. But, you don’t have to worry all the time or give up on your dream because of the fear of the unknown and rejection because this article will prepare you well. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to approach a manufacturer with your product idea. With these strategies, you shouldn’t have to worry about saying the right/ wrong thing.
So, how do you get yeses from the manufacturer?
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Understand the risks involved
Before you engage a manufacturer, know that if they say yes, you will be entering into a risky relationship. You don’t know this manufacturer all too well, and they might take over your jewelry idea, especially if it isn’t patented. So, you have to be aware of this risk and also the fact that you’ll be entering a long-term relationship with them. To ensure that you kick things off on the right foot, be crystal clear about the roles and the responsibilities of everyone involved in the arrangement.
Your vision, at the end of the day, is to shield your role as the visionary in that relationship. Regardless of the huge role to be played by the manufacturer, you remain the ultimate decision maker. And you’re the only one who can save your product idea and designs should things get shaky.
Note: If you settle on an overseas manufacturer, you’ll communicate with them (in the long run) through an agent in the US who’s a representative for the factory or you’ll be dealing with the factory directly.
Often, we recommend that you deal with an agent because the middleman is more knowledgeable and though they’ll charge, the information is worth the extra cash.
Build a positive relationship
Now that you understand all the risks involved, it’s time to make the manufacturer trust you and for you to trust them. The reason for this is that as long as you’re engaging the manufacturer, you’re playing the long game – you’re courting the manufacturer to ensure that they say yes to your idea. So, don’t make the first interaction with the manufacturer be about the pitch, just focus on building a genuine, positive relationship.
Since you already know the manufacturer you’d like to work with, you could mention to them about who recommended.
It’s only after you’ve caught the manufacturer’s attention that you can ask about them manufacturing your product idea.
Word of advice – approach more than one manufacturer representative first to determine which of the manufacturing companies on your list you’ll move forward in business with.
Some of the things you should ask yourself when determining the best person to work with include: who is easier to work with? Who beats your expectations? Who is more knowledgeable? Often, a positive relationship with an agent helps you avoid fines because they’ll guide you on the border restrictions and rules, as well as quota restrictions.
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Asking the right questions
This is, perhaps, the hardest bit when it comes to finding a manufacturer that will support your business/ product idea. So, while careful not to offend the manufacturer, organize a sit-down and ask the following questions:
- Were all previous jewelry products made according to the designer’s specifications?
- What percentage of the shipment was defective? Did the factory give restitution?
- Were the deadlines met? And how did the factory make amends for unmet deadlines?
- Was there a problem with the shipment?
- How good is the company’s product production quality?
- How many orders have you placed?
- How long have you been the manufacturer’s agent?
- Is s/he responsive to emails and calls?
- Which companies do they work with normally?
- Who is responsible for landing the manufactured jewelry in the US?
Even as you ask these and other questions, know that you can only move forward with that agent if they’re excited to give you the contacts of other people they’ve worked with in the past. If they don’t recommend anyone, take that as a warning.
Once you settle on a manufacturer, ask them to sign an NDA, non-disclosure agreement. An NDA is important as it shelves some of the risks involved. The factory and your agent have to sign the NDA. The NDA helps in protecting your idea from copycats and also makes you the boss of the operations.
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Once the NDA is signed, you can send your jewelry samples to the manufacturer and ask them for a quote for the project.
Note that when you’re comparing quotes, you compare apples to apples. Are the factories quoting the same quantities and fabric quality? Is the quote inclusive of duties, shipping, customs fees and if not, are you responsible for the fees?
How are duties levied on the items? Which is the tariff code for your product? How much will the additional duties and taxes cost you?
Once you have these detailed for a day or two, you’ll probably get a call from the manufacturer/ factory – they always expect a negotiation. So, be ready to ask for even better pricing to help you meet your margins and to pay the distributor.
Now that you know who to work with, the company that’ll boost your business and one you can build a positive relationship with, you can send your prototypes and also share the detailed drawings with specifications to show the exact sizing and design of your jewelry. Also, send them a spec sheet.
Now that everything is in order send your purchase order, pay the pre-production costs, and wait for your products.
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