Design Biz Start-Up Tips #2: First Steps to Manufacturing


When I started Natural History, I had absolutely no background in design or product development.  Finding out how to get my first 300 cushions made seemed like a mammoth task, and even when I found the right suppliers, I made silly and avoidable mistakes.

1. If you want to make your products yourself, how many orders per month do you need to support yourself, and can you physically make that many items on your own (and run your business)?  If you can’t, then you need to find a reliable and affordable way to have your products made by somebody else.

2. Depending on the nature of your product, it might make financial sense to take on a manufacturing assistant or even an apprentice, especially someone who can do admin too.  Everybody has to multitask in a small business!

3. If you want to be able to handle volume orders or make several different products that you lack facilities for, you might have to find a manufacturer.  The right manufacturers and suppliers in the UK can sometimes be hard to find, and they will initially seem more expensive than using overseas companies, but you will have more control over the manufacturing process, better communication and support, and lower minimum orders.

4. Research, research, research.  The yellow pages is a good start, as many small workshops will not have websites or understand online marketing, but will often be unbelievably helpful and supportive.  Other places to ask for advice are LinkedIn groups, Twitter and Alibaba.  Try your best to find prices from two or three different manufacturers, and ALWAYS get samples, especially if print is involved.  Quality between two seemingly identical companies can vary wildly.

Sewing needles in wooden case from Merchant & Mills