There comes a point in all creators’ career when they’re ready to start selling their own custom merchandise. Many people sell Teespring’s print on demand products—these products are produced on demand, meaning only after they’re ordered, so there’s no upfront cost or risk involved. Teespring also handles delivery and customer support so you can infinitely scale your merch sales.
But what if you’re interested in selling something that can’t be produced on demand? We’ve got you covered! TeespringGo offers two core services; the first is fulfillment and the second is sourcing + fulfillment. With both options we’ll store your inventory and take care of order delivery and customer support too.
We have a list of reputable and trustworthy manufacturers we use for sourcing, but if you’re interested in sourcing products yourself where do you start? Working directly with a manufacturer allows you to be in control of the entire product design and creation process. If you want to source products yourself, then we recommend using the following checkpoints to determine if the manufacturer is trustworthy.
Please note if a business pushes back on any of the steps below (including providing a reference number, contact details, or reference letters from banks) consider finding another manufacturer. These are standard business practices and serious red flags if a manufacturer does not comply. Continue reading to learn more.
1) What are the risks?
Before getting started first make sure you’re aware of the risks involved in sourcing products yourself. If a manufacturer’s product quality is bad or they take much longer to produce inventory it can lead to upset buyers, money loss, and even legal liability. Some of the risks to consider are:
- If products are low quality, you could lose money if forced to provide refunds to buyers.
- If products are not produced/shipped on time, you have to deal with upset customers and refunds.
- You could be held liable for buyer injuries if the manufacturer does not meet safety requirements or obtain certifications for your product—even if you weren’t aware of these requirements.
You need to consider potential issues that could arise and understand how the manufacturer can ensure these issues are avoided. This is why it’s important for you to thoroughly research any manufacturer or supplier before working with them.
2) Do they have a website?
One of the easiest ways to immediately vet a manufacturer is to verify their online presence and the information available online about them. First look for their website. From there, you should be able to find their phone number, additional contact information, and a physical address. Search the address online to verify where they’re located—it’s even better if you can see the address is located within a ‘factory’ or ‘warehouse’ type of building on Google maps.
3) Are there reviews?
Reviews are invaluable for determining whether you want to work with a manufacturer or supplier. The best case scenario is when you know someone who has used this manufacturer before and had a positive experience. In a business to business marketplace (like Alibaba), supplier reviews should be very easy to find. For example, this supplier looks promising, but their total number of reviews is low so they might not be the best fit.
Keep in mind the most important thing you’re looking to confirm is 1) do they have previous experience creating this product and 2) was it a positive experience for the people who used them. Search for reviews on multiple sites. If there are no reviews available, you may want to consider working with someone else.
4) Do they have a CRN or RN number?
A company registration number, known as a RN or CRN, is normally a 6 – 8 digit sequence that is used as the business’s registered identification number. When you receive this number, you can confirm that the manufacturer you’re working with is legitimate by checking the national registry.
5) Can they provide reference letters?
When you order inventory it’s normal to pay for at least 50% upfront, which can be risky if you’re not sure it’s a legit business. Before sending money, you can ask for a bank reference letter to confirm the manufacturer’s existence and trustworthiness. You can also ask for the contact information of a previous customers to learn about their customer service, response time, and overall consumer experience. Be sure to perform a quick online search to verify the contact provided to make sure they’re real.
Example of a bank reference letter format
6) Do they specify transactional details?
Any legitimate manufacturer should provide information on the terms and conditions of the transaction (timelines, shipping costs, cost per unit, materials, etc.). This can be in the form of a purchase order, quote, contract, etc. Ask them upfront if this is something they will provide if you source your products with them. Also make sure you receive these details before paying for inventory. If they provide a contract you’ll want to pay close attention to any clauses, timelines and product specifications. Keep in mind Teespring will ask you for these documents if you want to utilize our fulfillment service too.
Additional questions to ask yourself before sourcing products
Once you’ve got a manufacturer in mind, these are other things you’ll want to consider when you reach out to them. Make sure you have all the information you need before making a decision and sending payment.
- What’s the minimum order you need to make? Do you have enough funds to invest upfront?
- Are they aware of required safety certifications for selling this product? Can they help you secure certifications if necessary?
- How much does it cost to ship inventory to a warehouse – ex. to Teespring? What are the shipping timelines.
- Do you want to deal with international companies, or domestic suppliers?
- What is the production timeline? How long does it take to receive the product once you place the order?
- What’s their support service like? Is there a way to contact them if you have questions or need help with your inventory order?
TeepringGo’s fulfillment service
Once you’ve sourced inventory you’ll likely need help fulfilling orders. With TeespringGo’s fulfillment service we’ll store your inventory, deliver orders, and provide customer support to your buyers too. Learn how Teespring can help you scale your merch business with our sourcing and fulfillment services today.