Here's the exact phone script an entrepreneur uses to lock down new suppliers for his clothing startup after the pandemic left his entire supply stuck in a Chinese factory
- Before the coronavirus outbreak shut down large gatherings across the country, trade shows and expos were a great way to find suppliers.
- Now, business owners will have to master cold calls and emails.
- Wesley Kang, the cofounder of dress-shirt brand Nimble Made, is taking a straight-forward approach to finding new suppliers and diversifying his supply chain.
- He shared the exact conversation he uses to start new supplier relationships and the questions he asks to make sure they're the right fit.
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Before the coronavirus outbreak shut down large gatherings across the country, trade shows and expos were a great way to find suppliers. Now, business owners will have to master cold calls and emails.
Wesley Kang is the cofounder of men's dress-shirt brand Nimble Made. The pandemic has not only slowed sales, it's also highlighted the downsides to working with international suppliers as an American startup.
In January, the brand was expecting a major inventory shipment of new styles and restocked sizes from China before the Lunar New Year. The shipment was delayed until after the holiday break - then the coronavirus broke out across China and many factory employees didn't return to work.
Nimble Made's inventory is still sitting on factory floors. Meanwhile, February sales decreased by 45% and three best-selling shirts are almost completely out of stock, or unavailable in popular sizes.
The situation highlighted the downsides of working with an international supplier, like long lead time, lack of effective product quality control, and low visibility into the manufacturing process. "We've been inspired to get a better handle on our supply-chain process and make it into a more sustainable one," Kang told Business Insider.
To tackle these roadblocks, Nimble Made is looking for a domestic supplier that can provide a more long-term relationship. But that can take a while. "To build a brand-new supplier relationship takes an equal, if not longer, amount of time," Kang said.
Though a simple Google search can lead you to the right suppliers (and you can email them your inquiry), Kang said most factories will want to speak on the phone to be able to cover the complexity and specificity of your product.
Whether on the phone or in person, here's the exact format Kang uses to start a conversation with a supplier:
- First, he introduces himself: "Hey, I'm Wesley and we sell dress shirts."
- He explains that Nimble Made is a startup: "I only want to make 50 dress shirts per style because we're so new. Is that something you'd be willing to do?"
- Then, he explains what he's looking for: "The most important thing is the sizing because that's what we stand for."
- Next, he asks the factory representative for their minimum order quantity. "That's going to dictate essentially how much money you have to put up to start a new relationship."
- He asks for the cost per unit (CPU) manufactured, which is primarily dependent on material.
- For international suppliers, he asks for the FOB pricing, or price per unit plus the transportation charges for shipping.
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