Our online store is coming up to its launch day and one thing we wanted to share was our experiences in sourcing suppliers and what we have learnt. Speaking to new businesses we’ve found that this is a common worry amongst startups who have no idea where to start searching.
As we are selling framed printed art we needed to find suppliers for various items. We needed a printer who could print to our exact specifications, a specialist paper supplier as we required archival paper to make sure our prints were printed on suitable material, frames for our photos and packaging material.
So what did we learn…
When beginning our search for a printer we scoured the web but found most just operated online and lacked the speciality we required. We then came to the realisation that our local printer may be able to help. After speaking to them about our project we found there printing facilities were more than capable of printing to our requirements. Can you guess what the best part was? Being local we could visit them and speak to them face to face which makes such a big difference. We could discuss our requirements, see samples of their print, and could validate that they had the facilities we needed by actually looking at all of their equipment, not just photos of printers they claimed to use. We certainly recommend looking at your local independent retailers, as you’ll be amazed how helpful they can be. If your struggling to find any local suppliers its worth driving to a few local industrial areas that house warehouses and commercial buildings. Just by looking at the list of companies that are housed there on the gate you’ll be able to see if any offer what your after. We drove to a couple local sites and although we didn’t find what we were looking for we were amazed at the types of suppliers local to us that we never new existed here.
There are plenty of specialist directories online with details of suppliers for various industries that are worth looking into. Be advised however that some websites do require you to pay to become a member to access their trade directory. You should also contact your local Chamber of Commerce who may be able to put you in touch with some of their members. Some local Chambers have online directories that you can search through to find suppliers too. We found the North London Chamber had a great tool for searching their directory here.
Let your contacts and friends help you with your search! Post a message on Twitter and Facebook and see if any of your friends have contacts in those areas. You’ll be amazed how a friend just happens to be related to the owner of a company that could really help you.
LinkedIn is also a powerful tool in your search for suppliers. Just use the main search facility and you can quickly find people and companies. We literally found 100’s of suppliers of frames with one simple search.
It’s a well-known source for wholesale purchasing of nearly any kind of product from textiles to electronics to packaging. Most suppliers are in Asia but you do find some in Europe and elsewhere too. You can use Alibaba and other similar sites to buy wholesale products or you can contact suppliers direct to manufacture new items specifically for you. Most firms speak English so you can email, Skype or give them a call to clarify and questions you have. Our advice however is to use verified suppliers and use the protected payment methods provided by Alibaba for ultimate protection. Its also ALWAYS worth purchasing a sample first too. It may cost you more than the cost per unit of buying in bulk but at least you can confirm the product is exactly what you expect and you can check the quality. There is nothing worse than ordering 1000+ items for them to arrive and for you to realise it wasn’t quite as you expected.
Once you have found a supplier only purchase what you need. Its easy to be tempted to buy an extra 500 items because your cost per unit falls but if you don’t actually need the extra 500 its just going to cost you more in the long run, waste valuable cash resources, and take up storage space.
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From all the team at Smart Cookie Design