Global Sourcing: How to Navigate It

The United States is full of amazing makers, designers, manufacturers, packaging experts, and branders. For a small brand to grow into a larger brand, they have to identify not only talent but efficiency in their supply chain. 

For Solemates this has been an ongoing challenge.  We have some products that are made in one state, the packaging in another and they are finished at our warehouse (ie, they are packaged one at a time by the same talented and lovely people who ship your orders). We have other products whose outer parts come from China, inner parts are filled in the USA and again, they are packaged at a 3rd facility. It’s entirely inefficient and makes some areas of the business difficult to scale and grow.  Other products, however, are made, created, bottled, and finished before we ever see them. Many products we sell on Amazon never touch my hands; and that to me, is a sign of supreme efficiency.  My job has been to identify the products that are most needed, source the best supplier, ensure the quality, ingredients and process are in line with the Solemates brand, and deliver them to customers. 

As a small brand, this can be overwhelming.  The lure of Alibaba and so many direct to consumer superstore suppliers is real..but have you ever ordered from one of those sites? It’s a disaster wrapped in a headache. Terrible communication, vague descriptions, constantly changing terms and pricing and tremendous opacity around shipping costs and timelines make them difficult to impossible “partners”.  And partners are ultimately what we are all seeking. 

Partners are there to help solve problems, to brainstorm solutions, to float new ideas and suggestions your way. Partners understand the stress that goes hand in hand with placing larger orders for new products and partners understand how important it is for everything to go well. 

For Solemates, our relationship with one of these partners, has helped grow and change our business in ways we never anticipated. This partner is Brand Addition. Brand Addition works with us in the following way:

  1. I email our US based buyer and tell her what Im thinking about launching
  2. Brand Addition meets the email with professional enthusiasm and asks pertinent questions
  3. I follow-up by sending her a sample or a URL to something that Im inspired by (not copying). I call out the features that mean something to my brand and the product I am trying to create
  4. Brand Addition summarizes the product in a document; and then the fun begins
  5. Brand Addition leverage their global network to find the right supplier for the product I am seeking to develop; they consider historic orders they have placed and relationships they have developed around the world, they consider the minimums my brand can tolerate, and they find the best priced provider.
  6. Brand Addition works with the local factory to create exactly what I want.
  7. Samples are sent around the world; it is iterative and collaborate until it is perfect
  8. A product sample, an exact replica of what I will later receive in bulk is sent to me to sign off on. If I have any changes or edits, they are made now and another sample is sent.
  9. The order is placed. Case pack sizes are determined, shipping method is confirmed and weeks later (or months), shipping updates filter in.
  10. Finally, the finished good is received and the order becomes a new product in our line up.  

We have used Brand Addition for a handful of product origination and product improvement over the last few years and we will look forward to expanding on this valuable partnership.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to source a product from ideation to completion? Join me on Thursday, October 8th at 2pm on Solemates’ Instagram Live and meet Julie Alverson of Brand Addition. Ask questions and be a part of the conversation!

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