Our guest blog post this week comes from Erin Wilson, President and Chief Mama of Lots To Say Baby, a manufacturer and designer of funny pacifiers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is part 1 of a 2 part post…
You have the idea of the century; a product that just needs to be out in the marketplace. Whether it’s the next post-it note or a new take on a old classic you know, that this is the next big thing. So, you have the idea, Now What? How do you get it made and into stores?
When the idea of Lots to Say Baby pacifiers was born I had the same question. I knew that our line of pacifiers was an product that others would find just as fun and funny as my family and friends. With my background in sales and marketing I was sure the product would be a hit. I didn’t have any idea on how to begin a line of pacifiers and where to even start was a mystery. Fortunately, with a 4 month old up at all hours I had a lot of time to research in the middle of the night.
Talking to other small business owners I realized now that this is the biggest first hurdle for new companies. This process is what makes the difference between a dream and reality.
So, where do you start?
Before deciding if you will manufacture in the US or abroad you need to research some basics on the materials your product will be made of, manufacturing process, and any government regulations that might apply to your product. Below is a list of resources I have used to research products. Many of them I continue to use as new questions come up – so keep the list handy!
Google – doesn’t everything start here J Links and information on the market you are going into, government regulations and basic material information can all be found with just a few keywords.
Mommy Millionaire –Kim Lavine’s first book is full of resources to get you started in your business. It is full of resources and instructions on finding manufacturing resources. This book was literally my go to guide when I got started. It is still the book I hand to any small business owner just starting out – it’s that good.
Dun & Bradstreet Million Dollar Database – Your local library’s website will typically give you access to this list of businesses who do revenue of over $1 million. This is how I found my first manufacturer. It takes some searching but you can find a lot of information on potential factories through this database.
Networking – both online groups, industry trade groups and local small business groups can be great resources as you learn more about going into production. I am part of the Mom Entrepreneur group and have found it an incredibly useful resource for questions ranging from manufacturing, fulfillment marketing and so on. The key to success with these groups is to make sure you are giving and not just taking. Be sure to answer questions you can offer guidance on. There will be times you don’t need much help yourself but can answer others questions.
Twitter – A great resource for general questions and to make contacts. I typically tweet general questions because I don’t know the exact audience the tweet is going out to. If I need more detailed help I can go into details directly with the people who reply to my tweet. Facebook and LinkedIn are also great resources. I use the same rules for these as I do for twitter – keep it general in the beginning. All of these resources have helped me along the way.
Pick up the Phone! – All of your googling and other research will help you find some potential manufacturers for your product within the US. Give them all a call. Even if they are not going to be a fit for your product they know their business and therefore can help! These phone calls and emails are where I found the most industry/product specific information when I was developing our line of pacifiers. There is no replacement for talking to people who work within their industry. I learned about plastic injection molding, types of plastics, manufacturing process in a 20 min phone call that would have taken me days to find online. They also provided recommendations from their experience – information I couldn’t have found without talking to an expert. Most of the people I talked to didn’t work with baby products and I didn’t use them – but they still provided the information I needed. When I did talk to the factory I would use I was well versed in plastics and knew more about what I was looking for.
Ok, so now you have all this information and most likely a list of companies you think might be able to help you. The list will probably be a list of factories and maybe a few sourcing companies that can help you bring your dream to reality. What next? The next steps are big and full of even more information and you have a lot to do before we get to that step. So start your research and tune in for our next post — an interview with sourcing genius Innovative Development’s Kevin Zanardelli. Kevin has done a great job answering questions about finding and working with manufacturers.