I decided to write about something a little different today. I want to do a small writeup on sourcing supplies for businesses that are of a manufacturing sort. This is probably one of the things that you really don’t think about when you’re excited and planning to start a new business but will very quickly become an expensive problem that can be a lot bigger than you would think. The supplies that you use to make whatever it is you’re making are extremely important. They are the raw ore that you need to make something beautiful. So, where and how do you find these things?
1. Knowing what you need to get the job done.
Thinking back on my personal experience, I know that I had a heck of a time finding the right places with the quality that I needed. The first thing to remember is that you often cannot trust what you buy until you have had a chance to try it on more than a couple pieces. I’ll use my own business as an example for these to give you an idea. I make corsets for Absynthetika, as some of you may already know, and there are many different types of supplies and tools needed for the job. There are some of the obvious things like fabric and thread, scissors and needles. Then there are some things that are a little more complicated, like boning – what type of boning should I use, in what format should I order it, and how much work am I willing to do to prepare it? These are all questions that will impact where you order something from. My first piece of advice for those of you in small business manufacturing is to make a list of all the supplies that you’re going to need and from that list, I would note where you plan to get them and what you have worked with before and know is a good quality. Some of what you need may be easy to find, but some of it may not be. You need to know where to spend your research energy, and start from there. There’s nothing worse than starting something and finding all the surprises of supplies that you will need, as this gets very expensive and very frustrating very quickly.
2. What work are you willing to do yourself?
This may seem like an odd question as if you’re planning on making things to sell, you may feel like you’re doing everything yourself. This is not in fact the case. For corsets, for example, you need boning. Are you going to use plastic, that’s easy to cut, pre-cut steel, steel that you need to cut yourself? These may seem like small questions but the answers will change where you’re getting your product. Plastic/rigilene boning you can buy locally in a regular sewing store, whereas precut boning you’ll have to order from a costume supply shop. Precut boning is more expensive than a spool of boning, but the spool requires more work to make usable. Though it requires more work, it gives you more flexibility, and so which one will you choose? Ultimately, it is up to how much work you’re willing to put into the prepwork. This, of course, doesn’t only apply to corsetmaking, but to any manufacturing business. The more work you’re willing to do yourself, the more money you will save on the prep that you don’t need to pay a company to do. This also lets you closer control the quality of your product. Do you need to have a cotton bias? Are you going to buy it or make it yourself? Should you order specific jewelry findings to your exact measurements or will you just cut them to size yourself to save the money?
Two options for making bias tape and the option for buying it. Which one is worth the time/money for your business?
You need to be a little careful that you don’t get stuck in the permanent “if I make it, it will be cheaper”. A great comparison is clothing shopping. I am never willing to make jeans for myself because I can buy them for 10-20 dollars a pair, which wouldn’t even cover my labour for making them. A simple skirt that’s only one layer think being sold for 30 dollars? This is something I would make with better quality stitching for a lower cost. Remember that your time is money and if you are going to do this type of work yourself, that you need to be considering how much time you’re using and is it worth it either for money saving or for quality control. Remember, your supplies should balance your time and your money so that you can maximize your quality without sacrificing too much time.
I will continue with a few more topics in next week’s blog getting into online suppliers and making the most of your supplies. Where people who have been in this industry for a while may see this as common sense, it isn’t quite so common when you’re just starting out and don’t have a baseline to work from.