Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, said the hardest part of her whole business journey was finding a manufacturer.
Here are some tips to help you through the process:
Starting out, don’t over commit. There is no point meeting a minimum order quantity that is going to mean you are overstocked + can’t sell, to then create your next collection. You’re bikini empire dreams will turn into a nightmare. Maybe you don’t have the funds yet either, so think of a few creative strategies for producing your collection.
Manufacturing overseas can be a lengthy process. The manufacturer you start with, probably won’t be the same one you use in future. This isn’t aways the case, but you may outgrow them or find a manufacturer that aligns more with your brand. Overseas production is often a longer process initially, sometimes up to 3 weeks for them to get back to you + there is usually a lot of back + forth with getting samples right, especially if you don’t have a pattern. Don’t leave sourcing a manufacturer to the last minute.
A lot of manufacturers have a high MOQ. This doesn’t necessarily mean no, if you really think they would be a perfect fit for your label, back yourself, show them that yes! you are serious about being a designer, you want to grow fast, you will be meeting their MOQ’s sooner rather than later + it will be beneficial for both of you to work together. Don’t waste theirs or your time though, if you’re going in backing yourself, show them how you plan to meet their requirements.
Lisa Messenger is a big believer in testing the market before following a new idea. Take pre orders. Try getting samples made, photograph what you’ve got, get pre orders + then have them manufactured. This will show the level of interest in your label + if you are on the right track with giving your customers what they want.
Find a seamstress that works with lycra, the local dance studio might have someone that they use. Do a small capsule collection to start + grow the collection throughout the season as you make sales. This will help you get money to do your next collection + help to avoid any excess stock.
Where to start looking for a manufacturer? have a look on linkedIn, Utelier + even Alibaba. These are good starting points to get your research process started.
Just remember its not all about the destination, the journey is often the funnest part. So embrace it, get excited, it really is amazing when you see your bikinis come to life for the first time. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
Keep chasing your sparkle.
P.S. There is more info on the manufacturing process in our ebook ‘How to start a swimwear label'