Walking into a factory for the first time as a new brand can be intimidating. As we always say at Stitch Method, it takes a community to run a successful brand! Your manufacturer is a huge part of your community! They want you to be successful so that you keep bringing them business and you want them to be successful so that they are in business to help. It might be intimidating reaching out to factories for the first time. But, if you have your tech packs for each style, samples to show and all of your vendors lined up, you can feel confident that you are prepared to walk in the door. Here are some tips to keep your first meeting running smoothly!
Look at this meeting as a partner meeting and walk in with a smile! Not only are you looking to see if this factory is a good fit for your brand, but they are looking to see if your brand is a good fit for them! You don’t want to assume they automatically want to work on your project. You will want to review every aspect of the project with them so that they can get a clear idea of the work involved. Review the details and construction of the samples, walk in depth through the tech packs and discuss all of the fabrics and trims involved. And, don’t forget to talk about the number of items that you are looking to produce! After you have given them a good overview, ask them if this is a project that they would like to work on and ask them if they have the time.
Of course at some point you will need to talk about the money! You might have an idea of how much you want to pay per piece and you might want to share that with the factory, or just ask them in general for an idea on pricing. Some factories will give a quote based on a sample or paperwork, while others will insist on sewing a sample first. If the factory gives you a quote based on reviewing a sample, please keep in mind that the quote is just an estimate. It is a lot more complicated than looking over a sample for them to get an accurate price. Once you start the production process, this quote will most likely change. So, if you understand this from the beginning, you will be prepared for the price change.
Understand that timelines are tricky for them to estimate and you might need to practice patience. If you can let them know when you are looking to have your pieces ready, you can work backwards to establish a start date. However, they cannot predict everything. Sometimes machines break and it takes a few days to fix them. Sometimes emergencies come up that set back other projects and it snowballs and timelines are pushed back. When they give you a timeline, add in a lot of extra time so that you are prepared.
Be mindful of their privacy and their other clients privacy! While it is certainly a good idea to get a sense of the work that they can provide, keep in mind that they might have confidentiality agreements with their current brands and it might be challenging them for to show you a lot of different samples. This also means it might be challenging to give you a thorough tour of the facility if they have other items in production. Instead, it might be helpful to ask if they have worked on similar products or have the machinery necessary.
To sum up, be respectful in general. You want to build a long term relationship with your factory. As you work together season after season, you will face challenges and find solutions together. You will need to be flexible, open to change and ready to compromise. Building that relationship starts from the first meeting! Good luck!