Original Article: Maker’s Row
Finding a factory is the first big step to your sourcing process. Before you begin this search, make sure you have an idea of your budget and the kind of capabilities you need your manufacturer to have.
When finding a manufacturer, one common misconception is that every factory can do it all: design, source materials, and production. However, not all factories are one‐stop‐shops and you will likely have to find a design partner, a materials partner, and a production partner. We’ve included a brief definition of each profession to clarify their responsibilities.
Design Partner: A technical designer or pattern maker to turn your sketches or ideas into an a pattern or 3D technical drawing.
Materials Partner: A materials partner will be your fabric mill, manufacturer or fabric consultant who will help you find your fabric, leather, trims, hardware, etc. that will make up your product.
Production Partner: This is the person or company that will be doing the actual manufacturing or construction, cut and sew, of your product and bring it to physical, useable form.
Must-Haves Before Messaging
Before you contact a factory, you want to make sure you have certain information about your product and brand goals established. Answer the questions in the article below to get started.
Read This: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Contacting a Factory
Each factory is different in their requirements for production. Some will require you to have your tech pack, patterns or even a full sample before working with them. While others can make those for you in‐house.
Figure out where you are in the product development process.
Do you have a tech pack or existing patterns? If not, you’ll need to find a technical designer or pattern‐maker. If you just have sketches or even just an idea in your head, you will need to start off here as well. In this instance, you can search for “technical designer” or “pattern maker” on Maker’s Row. If yes, you do have a tech pack or patterns already, you can research options for production manufacturer.
How to send your information to manufacturing partners
When reaching out to your manufacturing partner, whether it be a technical designer, pattern maker, or full‐production manufacturer, you will need to convey your idea to them. You can either:
If you don’t have a tech pack, creating a project is another great way to compile your information together in a concise, organized manner. Another option is to just send over a quick product description:
Product images, samples, and other items:
Be sure to include in your message any images you have of a sketch, existing sample, or even just a similar item to what you are looking to produce. If you are using projects software, it’s really easy to upload files. You can either ‘Drag and Drop’ or simply click on the box to upload. There isn’t a limit to the storage and you can upload as many files as you like.
Search Keywords and Filtering:
Searching on the site is how you will explore the factory options available to you. Before you begin your search, it is important to understand the general category of manufacturer you need.
When conducting this search, you will want to keep your search terms more open‐ ended and broad than specific. Factories come up in search on Maker’s Row based on the “tags” they assign to their profile. As such, many factories just list the general categories they work in. For example, if you are looking to make a children’s tunic, you would not search “children’s tunic” but rather “children’s clothing”, “infant”, or even just “cut and sew” or “apparel manufacturing”. From there, you can look through the profiles and refine by profile description.
How to Message a Factory:
Ready to connect with the perfect factory who can take your designs to production? Before you take the leap and reach out to a potential manufacturer, check out these tips to make sure you make the most of your messages on Maker’s Row.
When messaging a factory, brevity and clarity are key! Give a simple introduction to your product and needs and then ask what info they need from you. Make sure to be straightforward when introducing your company and what you’re looking to make, but don’t overload them with information and demands in the first message. Remember that this is a working relationship; the factory is selecting you as a client as much as you are selecting them as a factory.
So how do you make sure you stand out? Understanding what NOT to do is a good place to start. Here are 5 of the most common ‘rookie’ mistakes made when reaching out to potential suppliers:
Read This Article: 3 Beginner Mistakes When Contacting Manufacturers
Now that we’ve covered do’s and don’ts, let’s get started! Share your project or message a factory directly!
How to Screen Factories:
Each time you go to find a manufacturing partner, you will want to make sure they will be a reliable manufacturing partner for your needs. Before deciding who to work with, you will want to filter through your factory options and make sure they will be the right fit not just for what you are looking to produce, but equally as important, that you can get along with them personally as business partners.
Read This Article: Planning Your First Meeting with a Manufacturer
Make sure there is timing attached to every deliverable. At the same time, remember that factories are people and not machines and things fall behind. Prepare for delays.
Best Practices for Working with a Factory Partner
Just like relationships with your customers, the relationship you have with your manufacturer can make or break your company.
Having a strong relationship with your manufacturer is not as simple as paying them on time, you must remember that they are people too so treat them as you would treat a friend or co‐worker. Moreover, some designers or brands might view factories as someone who works for them whereas it is really more the reverse. Finding a factory is like a courting process: you have to show your respect them and that you are someone they want to work with.
Communication and Organization
When you are reaching out and working with factories, it’s crucial to stay organized! You want to make sure to keep track of who you contact and make a calendar reminding yourself to follow up with them. Factories are busy and you will need to follow up multiple times when you first reach out.
Ready to get involved?
Join our newsletter for updates