Finding Trustful Suppliers


I have been building relationships with many overseas manufacturers almost 3 years now. I have been overwhelmed and over the edge with many of them countless times.   I would like to take this opportunity to talk about what to expect when you are trying to find reliable suppliers.

When the light-bulb went on my head for the mommy and me shoes, it was distressing to find out that the possibility of having even the prototypes made here in US was not an option.   Having 2 daughters under 2 years old with a full time office position, I also knew traveling overseas to find a supplier wasn’t an option. During my initial approach, I certainly made a lot of mistakes, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Here, I gathered some basics to keep in mind when doing business with overseas suppliers:

Where to look for a supplier:

Internet sites like alibaba.com, globalresources.com, dhgate.comwww.made-in-china.com have overwhelmingly big listings of manufacturers of variety of products.  Browse their products online, and when you come across to similar models you are looking for, make sure that their minimum order quantities meet yours.  When you email the requirements, don’t be discouraged if only one out of 20 inquires reply back, as most of them won’t be interested in small quantity orders.  Be sure to read the about us page of the company and check if their address, telephone, fax and other details are filled in.  On most of these sites, overseas manufacturers can post their profile for free which can be a red flag on their trust profile.  Make sure to send inquiries to only “verified” companies with 2 or more years paid membership history.   The other most important quality is how much experience they have in exporting to the country you are trying to import.

Tradeshows: Find out the tradeshows related to your product line in the US closer to your hometown.  If you can attend to these tradeshows and walk the floor with your sample in hand, you have a higher chance of meeting a reliable supplier to produce your product.   I highly believe that the face-to-face meeting has a lot more advantages than email communications.  With email, communication lags, important details and the sense of humor get lost in translation.  With time difference, the process gets delayed many months.

Visit the country: This is the most effective way of meeting the right supplier. If you have a free time and extra money to travel overseas, I highly believe visiting the country or attending an international tradeshow would facilitate finding a reliable supplier.  Actually spending time overseas where you can witness the supplier’s manufacturing process, meet the key people and discuss your needs in their homeland would not only take the trust to the highest level but would give you the advantage of observing their facility, their products’ features along with their manufacturing and quality control process.

After you found them:

  • Prepare a Non-Disclosure Agreement and have it signed by the manufacturing rep before you disclose any details of your products.
  • Have your business name, brand logo registered in the country you are manufacturing your products.
  • Do a lot of research on the  product you are trying to have it manufactured overseas.  Don’t just assume that the supplier who has more experience than you, making the product, will guide you to the right direction.  Know exactly what you need to inquire.  This will save time and make you look more professional to start a relationship.
  • Be specific on the materials, components and style.  Outline them on a PowerPoint or Excel documents by style, along with sketches or actual images of the product.  If you already have a sample, it is actually best to send the sample to the supplier.
  • Be precise  on your requirements.  If you need testing or other “extra” labor, negotiate the fees and find out if they have executed it previously. You definitely won’t have time to “train” the supplier.
  • Find out the approx. price per item before you pay for the samples. If the price per item will be out of your planned budget, there is no need to spend many months to produce a sample.
  • Don’t pressure the supplier with many emails at once.  They will stop writing back to you if they feel the pressure.
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.  Have multiple suppliers work on your product sample and keep their info on file even you decide not to order from them the first time around.
  • Samples can be expensive.  Open up a Westernunion.com or MoneyGram accounts to transfer the sample costs for faster service with minimal service fees.  Most of the suppliers are willing to refund the sample fee when you put an order with them but you need to follow up on this since none will actually deduct it from the invoice.
  • Use the supplier’s DHL account to receive the samples and pay them directly for the shipping cost as any of the UPS and FEDEX rates will be higher than theirs.
  • Create a contract to cover the basics like, the Details of the Product, Quality Standards, Term and Time of Payment, Delivery (Collection) agreed, Inspection method and term, Transit and Insurance, Packing Requirements, Liabilities of Breach, Confidentiality, Settlement of Disputes.
  • Most of suppliers will require 30% deposit with 70% after the copy of the bill of lading payment method.  Negotiate if you can make the payment to be 30%, 60% and 10% after you see the goods, if this is your first time dealing with the supplier.  This way, you will have 10% of the total amount on hold against the actual products not being equivalent to the confirmation samples.
  • When the goods arrive to your warehouse, open each and every box to inspect them in a week period (otherwise stated on the contract). This way, if you have defective items, you can inform the supplier right away to fix the issue.
  • Most importantly, if failed, try again.
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