Since buying my mechanical my keyboard parts business a couple years ago I’ve gotten more involved in sourcing items from asia.
This post pulls together my notes on a couple different books on the topic.
The Import Bible (Manuel Becvar)
The author is a “your guy in China” type consultant who spends a lot of time finding and developing relationships with factories. The book is a quick read on how to start sourcing and manufacturing in China as a foreigner.
Places to find product ideas
- Amazon Bestseller Lists
- Alibaba, Banggood
- Global Sources Marketplace. I hadn’t heard of them before. They operate a more concierge type service where they connect you with vetted suppliers
- Your goal is to avoid middlemen who hang out on Alibaba, etc and get directly to the factories.
- How to spot middlemen:
- filter by “Gold supplier” on Alibaba
- Also look for “onsite check” and ” assessed supplier”
- Helps to have your own templates for vendor assessments where they fill in their info.
- Make sure to check certifications: (CE, RoHS, FCC, GS, business license, factory standards (ISO-9001), other third party labs. BSCI > ISO 9001
- Get references of customers in your country
- Price haggling: take their price and go down 20% unless your quantity is super low
- Check certification requirements at ImportDojo
- Have them marked “samples of no commercial value” on the sample invoice”
- Common to get samples for free or you pay shipping
OEM / ODM
- OEM = Factory produces product based on your design and specs (higher initial investment)
- ODM = Factory designs and produces based on your guidance
- Beware suppliers who tell you they have modified the design to avoid patent conflicts
- If you are getting stuff made in China you need to have a 3rd party inspect the goods before they are shipped to ensure quality.
- Big players in this space are Buereau Veritas, TUV-SUD, TUV-RHEINLAND, AsiaInspection
- Author recommends hiring an inspection ($300-$600) for shipments over $2k in value
- Video Skype is your friend if you can’t do an inspection
Placing an Order
- Keep in touch each week or two after order placed
- Packaging can be handled after order placed
- See if you can get more attractive packaging made.
- Having customized stickers with your brand to go over a generic box can work well
- Next steps = GO TO CHINA for ~12 days; visit all the factories and go to the big trade shows