Finding Suppliers For Your New Small Business

Nov 01

You thought it was such a great idea. You did your research, found the ideal market niche, and spoke to potential customers to see exactly what they wanted. Everything seemed fine and you were ready to go – but all of a sudden you are faced with a little problem. Where exactly are you going to get the products or services that you need to get your business going? It’s all very well having the world’s best business concept, but if you don’t have any suppliers, how are you going to put anything on the shelves?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Time and time again, budding entrepreneurs have brilliant ideas, but can’t come up with the actual product. Or, if they can, they can’t get it to the price that makes their business model work. The good news is that finding the right suppliers is not like looking for a needle in a haystack – the trick is to know where to go.

One good place to start is with tradeshows and trade magazines. Tradeshows are particularly useful, since you get to network directly with potential suppliers and are also exposed to new trends you may not even have considered. Also, by going to a trade show, you make it clear that you are a serious business buyer, not some consumer who is trying to find a cheap place to buy things for their home. This is important, since suppliers are more likely to work with you when you come over as being serious, and are more likely to discuss realistic commercial terms. Finding the right trade show to attend can sometimes be difficult, but often you can find what you need simply by searching online – the Trade Show News Network is a good place to start.

Another approach is to use bulletin boards to post questions about where you can get different types of products and services – for example, take a look at the Quora posts of Francesco Corallo. However, be careful when you do this, since you don’t want to give away too much and have someone else steal your business idea. Alternatively, take a look at an online site that provides unbiased supplier reviews. If you are looking for local services, then Angie’s List is a good source. Alibaba is also a reasonable place to look for products from the Far East – they offer supplier verification reports, as well as an escrow service that ensures your supplier doesn’t get paid until you receive the goods. However, you do need to be careful when sourcing products online, as there are a lot of scams out there.

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Image source: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/03/03/business/MONEY/MONEY-articleLarge.jpg

Finally, take a look at industry associations or organizations that are related to the product area that you are interested in. A number of association directories are available, including Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations, which you should be able to find in the reference department of most large public libraries. Once you do locate the right association, don’t be afraid to get in contact and tell them what you want – they exist primarily to put buyers in contact with sellers.