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Not So Fast!

Relief washed over me as I read the email in front of me. Also a feeling of gratitude that I had handled the manufacturer’s bad news with grace and had not let it make me cranky.

The email that had sent me on the search for a new manufacturer had been meant for someone else. Somehow I had gotten the email explaining that the company that I intended to use was an apparel manufacturer and that they did not work on my type of project, but they could refer me to someone who could potentially do it. It also contained some useful information on just how they figured out their price quotes for the work, so it gave me an inside view into what I could expect. My contact at the manufacturer apologized for the confusion and assured me that they would work on my project next week.

My mood improved dramatically. I’m so glad I didn’t send a snarky email!

Bad News

I received distressing news from the manufacturer today. They cannot do my project.
I am crushed.
I have now wasted a month going back and forth with this manufacturer, all for nothing.
Back to the drawing board I go…

A Little Trickier Than We Thought

After a suitable amount of time had passed, I checked in with the manufacturer and he confirmed that he had received my pattern. He also made the comment “A little trickier than we thought” and said that he should have a quote for me next week. I wasn’t sure what this meant, but I knew it didn’t sound so good.

After over a week of waiting, I decided to send him an email thanking him for the care label referral in the hopes that it might prod him to update me on any progress or give me a quote for how much this project was going to cost. Another day passed with no word.

Finally, I received an email. But, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear….

Hard Patterns and Logo Labels

With a detailed pattern created (complete with measurements) and a check written to the manufacturer, I sent them both off in the mail. I was beginning to realize that this process was going to take much longer than I had anticipated. Of course, I had no way to know how long this process could really take.

Once again I had to wait.

I found a company online that makes woven logo labels and went to work on that. It was a pretty easy process – you simply upload your image and the company creates your labels. So far, this was the most expensive part of my product. But I think it is worth it to have my very own logo label. I completed my order and sat back and waited….

Progress At Last!

Finally, I received an email from my new manufacturer! He ran through some details that I would need to know and said that he would need a final hard pattern from me before we could begin making my sample. I responded with many questions, of which he was very kind to answer. There was a bit of a language barrier, but we were making progress!
One of the things he helped with was referring me to the person they use to make labels. In addition to my care label, I had designed a logo for my product and I wanted to create a woven label to be sewn onto my product. After a bit of back-and-forth, I was able to get in contact with the label maker. But I was disappointed to learn that they do not do woven logo labels, only care labels. I proceeded with an order of care labels at a very good price. I was getting closer!

More Waiting…

With a big snowstorm delaying the delivery of my handmade prototype to the manufacturer, I continually checked my email for word from them. Days went by. Nothing.

I decided to check in with the manufacturer, and sent him a brief email. In the meantime, I contacted the Small Business Administration’s Consumer Product Safety Commission. Since I was manufacturing a children’s product, there are certain safety standards that must be met and potential testing that my product must go through. I needed to know exactly what information was necessary to include on my care and tracking tag – so the customer will not only know how to care for my product but also how to track down possible recall information.

I have to say, the SBA was extremely helpful! I was blown away. Not only did they answer my questions in a timely manner, but they went above and beyond by filling out some information that I would need for my Children’s Product Certificate and told me all of the information I would need on my care and tracking labels. From that point I was able to create a label that would be sewn into the stitching of my product.

More Lessons in Fabric

Once the manufacturer had received my prototype they contacted me to let me know that the fabric that I intended to use was not a “pre-activated” fabric. That meant that the product would need to be washed several times prior to use to ensure ultimate absorbency. As a busy mom, I know that I wouldn’t want to spend my time washing an item several times before I could use it. I would wash it once prior to use, but not several times. Thankfully the company suggested a new fabric to use, and I chose one that I thought would be plush and soft on a baby’s skin, while also being super absorbent. The representative at the fabric company sent an email introduction to his sewing contractor. He explained that he would be sending my handmade prototype along with my chosen fabric to the company that would (with some luck) manufacture my product.

The Answer Was Right in Front of Me!

It was only during a phone call to one of my mentors that I realized I could contact the company that manufactures the fabric I intended to use for my product to see if they could help me manufacture my prototype. A quick search of their website revealed what I needed – information on how to contact them about developing a new product. Having very low expectations and not really expecting to hear back, I sent a request for a quote. To my surprise they responded to me almost immediately! I was thrilled.

They asked me to send them my handmade prototype and said that they would work with me from there. I was a little nervous about sending off my very first prototype – my BABY – but I decided to go ahead with it. Non-disclosure forms signed and filed, handmade prototype packaged and ready to go, I shipped my baby off into the unknown…

Want to see how it turned out?

The Hard Part

I was having some trouble figuring out how to identify manufacturers for my product. I knew I could search online, but how would I know which companies were legitimate? I really wanted to find a U.S. manufacturer vice going straight to China to manufacture my product. I had read that when searching for a manufacturing partner, most entrepreneurs assume that it is cheapest to look to China. And they would be right if volumes are very high and “per unit” costs are the most important aspect of your upfront costs. Nothing against China, but I really wanted to be able to put “Made in the U.S.A.” on my product.
Just by chance, one day I read an article about a famous woman whose household products we all know. In the article, a small sewing manufacturer was mentioned. It was noted that this manufacturer would work for small batches of product, but possibly not so much for huge orders. It seems that once a company is taking large orders of products, most of them then need to outsource their manufacturing to China. It is just more economical in most cases to do this. This small company that was mentioned in the article seemed like just what I needed, so I followed the instructions on their website for initiating a project and waited for their response.
After a week or so of no response, I asked my helpful hubby to call the number I had for the company to see if they were even still in business. My husband spoke with the woman who runs the company and, while she seemed completely swamped with work, she did finally get back to me via email. But that is where it stopped. I was ready to get started, but my next attempt at contact went unanswered. While I would have loved to use her company, I questioned whether I wanted to start a business relationship with a company that was so clearly overwhelmed.
I was beginning to think I should just go with China…

Want to see how it turned out?

Details, Details…

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but I found a washable form of the fabric that I had used for my rough prototype and ordered some. I also bought the domain name for my product’s new website.
I was in a bit of a hurry to get a demonstration video of the product completed. Our daughter was only getting older, and I wanted her to be small enough to adequately demonstrate its use. After all, she was a huge motivation for the creation of the product.
With my husband’s help, we recorded a brief video demonstrating how my product would be used. It took quite a few takes, but we ended up with a video we could be proud of. And a few amusing bloopers.
Check out our bloopers here!
And with that, I was on to sew another prototype using the newest fabric…

Want to see how it turned out?