When you call sustainable manufacturers for the first time, it is pretty intimidating. Here is a 5 step guide of what kinds of questions you should ask.
1. Ask: Are You Taking New Clients?
The first and most important thing when you call sustainable manufacturers is to ask if they are taking on any new clients. You don’t want to be halfway through a conversation when you find out that all their client bookings are full. One time, I reached out to a place in North Carolina thinking that since the business has been around for a while, they would be reliable. Even before we started having a conversation, the receptionist just blatantly stated that they were shutting down within a month and weren’t taking on any new clients.
If this happens to you, just be polite. You should have a list of at least 15 places you want to call before even picking up the phone, anyway. I never understood the need to be angry in such situations. When you call sustainable manufacturers for the first time, you want to be professional, and sound like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t feel that way.
2. Figure Out Pricing Minimums
Usually, you are going to want to ask something along the lines of minimum purchasing order. Most places will let you know right off the bat what their purchasing order minimums are. When you call sustainable manufacturers for the first time, you are essentially setting up a relationship with this company. You want to sound like you know what you are talking about so they don’t feel the need to take advantage of you. This is especially important if you go overseas for your manufacturing because of the language barrier.
3. Find Out if They Have Design Services
In theory, I could have designed the shirt myself, but why micromanage when you can simply hire out design services for a reasonable cost. Not all places do this, which is why it’s important to ask. If they say no, and you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of 3rd party design services you can find.
If you find a company that doesn’t do design services but is still seems like a pretty decent company to design your clothing line, it’s okay to keep looking. Most of the people answering the phone at these places may get several inquiries through the course of the day. If you end up not going with them, it’s fine. If you do, it’s fine. Maybe, you don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone. In this case, do what the experts say, and fake it till you make it.
4. Be able to Conceptualize Your Idea, and Prepare Reference Samples BEFORE you Call Sustainable Manufacturers
When I first started out with Bottle Thread, It didn’t even have a name. I wanted to create a shirt that was super comfortable, fit me well, and wouldn’t wrinkle. Since I couldn’t find it anywhere on the market, I had to reference some cotton shirts that were already in my closet. I didn’t have a men’s version of the shirt, so I ended up boring one from a friend before realizing how long it would take to get done. Don’t make my mistakes. Be prepared to part with them for about 6 months while the designs are being completed.
If you don’t have a shirt right away and don’t have nice friends who are willing to let you borrow their clothing for such a long period of time, you can always drop approximately $30 on a new shirt from a fast-fashion store. To be a little more sustainable here, you’d be better off finding something from a thrift store. Just make sure you have something you don’t mind being without for a little while. Trust me, the payoff at the end will be worth it.
5. Know What to Say When You Call Sustainable Manufacturers
Nothing is more embarrassing than stumbling over yourself with uncertainty over the phone. I had to rewrite my script about 5 times the first time I reached out to call sustainable manufacturers. Trust me, it gets easier. And remember, even when you think you found the perfect place, call at least 5 more places just to be sure you’re getting a good deal.
I want to make sure that you have a successful phone call, here is a quick cheat sheet to keep with you while on the phone:
- Hi my name is ____ and I’m the brand manager for ___ (come up with a name) I’m looking to talk to someone about manufacturing ____(type of garmet). Do you do this, and are you taking on any new clients?
- Describe the garment a little… See if they can make it
- What are your order minimums?
- Do you have product design services?
- What is the order minimum for those services?
- Wow, this all is exciting. I’m still checking around and need to talk with management before I can give a final answer. Could I please get an email with all the specs for the project?
This kind of stuff was honestly the scariest part of starting a sustainable fashion company. We can’t fix the industry alone and need to work together. Even if my ideas are super successful, there is still much room for improvement in the industry that other people could latch on to and thrive. If this sounds like you, I’m putting together a FREE online learning course that you can take advantage of. The starting a sustainable business guide is a free resource that can help you figure out your ideal sustainable business idea.