Last month, I received two emails from mom entrepreneurs that scared the daylights out of me.
One told me she had wired money & given the greenlight on production of her product without a signed contract! She was running into delays & didn’t know what she should do.
Another was contemplating signing a contract after only seeing minimums & pricing–no production samples! She wondered what would happen if the quality was shoddy after paying for the entire run.
OH. MY. GOD.
So, I called on my former design & production guru, Linda Lednum, and we teamed up to go over the do’s & don’t’s of contract manufacturing.
Linda was the person who took Swaddleaze & Blankeaze from a concept inside my head to actual products sold around the country! Linda was in the textile industry as master patternmaker, product development manager, or quality control manger for 28 years. Her primary responsibilities were to work with designers on development of the first pattern, oversee the approval sample construction, grade the pattern and make costing & production markers. Her favorite part was always the patternmaking, so she bought the CAD software and hardware and started her own company in 2006.
Linda & I came up with some manufacturing “do’s” and “don’t’s” for anyone having their first production run done.
Here’s what we came up with:
1. Discuss the item to be manufactured–explain the concept of your product, show them samples, drawings, patterns, etc. See if your product is something they can manufacture.
2. Request production samples–this is very important, whether the manufacturer is an Alibaba.com “Gold Supplier” or comes highly recommended by a friend. You want to see their work and make sure the quality is at the level you expect. Be sure to ask them who is responsible for the shipping fees for production samples. I had to provide my FedEx account number to pay for all samples shipped.
3. Review production samples & either approve or request changes–this is a crucial step because in order to give accurate pricing, minimums, delivery dates and a written contract, the production samples need to be finalized and approved.
4. Once production samples are approved, ask for pricing, terms, delivery dates and a written contract. Agree on specific dates when samples and production will be shipped. Also, it does no harm to put in a penalty course (usually a reduction in payment) if shipment is delayed.
5. Sign contract and wire funds–usually half the amount is expected up front before production begins. The manufacturer will give you their wiring instructions (includes bank name, address, account number, etc and is sometimes called “wiring advice”). You can take this to your bank to complete the transaction. There is usually a small fee ($20-$50) for a wire transfer.
6. Confirm receipt of wired funds & greenlight production.
7. Once production is complete, request one piece per color, per style for final review before wiring payment balance.
1. Don’t feel like you have to give a manufacturer a production contract just because they’ve provided production samples.
2. DO NOT move forward with the production process until you are 100% satisfied with the production samples the manufacturer has provided.
3. Never greenlight production without approved samples and a written, signed contract that clearly states quantity, pricing and delivery dates.
4. Do NOT wire final payment until you have received, reviewed & approved one piece per color, per style.
5. Never pass up a chance to run your numbers and your thoughts by me –feel free to email me at themogulmom (at) gmail (dot) com with any questions or concerns.
For kids and infant items especially it’s wise to have quality, performance and safety testing done at a labs such as Intertek or Bureau Veritas until you are comfortable with the manufacturer’s testing. Refer to the CPSC’s guidelines for your product’s particular testing instructions & requirements.
Have a manufacturing experience or tip you’d like to share? Comment on this post–together, we can help each other!