Common questions about sourcing a product

If you’ve decided to create a product that needs to be sourced (rather than one you, or someone else can make) you may have lots of questions about the process.  Here I’ve answered the most common ones.

If I haven’t covered yours, just get in touch.

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Can I source products myself?

Absolutely!  It just takes time, patience and a clear idea of what you’re looking for.

Do I need to source from China, or somewhere else overseas?

My honest answer is maybe.  (Sorry!)  It’ll really depend on your product.

Manufacturing costs can be lower overseas – but shipping will be higher, and you’ll have to pay customs fees, which may offset any cost savings.  

There’s definitely an appeal with products ‘made in the UK’. (I’ll bet you sometimes see that on packaging?)  However not all products are made here, so you may have no option but to source from abroad.

I really can’t tell you what’s best for you, without knowing what you’re looking for, but I can tell you that I’ve successfully sourced products from the UK, USA, China, Turkey, Portugal and India.  All are possible!  

I have a detailed blog post with a full breakdown of the pros and cons, which may help you to decide what’s best for you.

What do I need before I start contacting suppliers?

You need a really clear product specification, with as much detail about the product you’re looking for as provide

If you have images (either of your own idea, or of similar products that you’ve seen elsewhere) you can include these too.

The kind of things you might want to include are:

  • Dimensions
  • Material(s)
  • Functionality
  • Weight
  • Quality requirements
  • If you need your own branding or designs used
  • If you want more than one option (i.e. if you want different sizes or colours)
  • How you’d like your product packaged

This isn’t a definitive list, but hopefully helps to get you started.  

It’s important to be really clear before you start looking, as you’ll get asked plenty of questions and this way you can be prepared for them!

How do I find a supplier?

There are plenty of sites where you can find thousands of manufacturers in one place, search for the product you’re looking for, compare suppliers and get in touch with them.

Alibaba.com is my preferred site for products made in China.  You don’t necessarily need to look abroad either.  I use Thomasnet for America and esources for the UK.

There’s a lot to be said for Google searches too…

How do I stay safe?

There are definitely ways to verify suppliers.  Much of this can be done online, or if you’re looking at a UK manufacturer you can usually visit them in person.  If you’re sourcing abroad some of the bigger platforms have their own systems. You can also pay for an inspection if this puts your mind at rest.

This post (which is slightly out of date now – as things have changed – for the better) will also help.

How will I know if the quality is any good?

Most suppliers will happily produce a sample for you (which you may need to pay for).  Personally, I’d avoid any that don’t, as it’s important to see what you’re potentially going to be paying for.

I recommend ordering 2 or 3 samples in total, so you can compare quality.

It can also be good to compare next to competitor’s products if you can (perhaps by buying one to use as a benchmark). This is a great way to compare like-for-like, as you can’t assess everything using a photo.

Who handles shipping if I do decide to  source from overseas?

You’ll need to arrange your own shipping in most cases, but it may well be that your supplier can help you with this.  This post covers the basics.