How To Find a Manufacturer or Supplier for Your Product Idea

Last Updated:
October 20, 2022

How To Find a Manufacturer or Supplier for Your Product Idea

When starting a business, you first need to work out what to sell. Once you decide on your product range, you have a new challenge – finding a manufacturer or supplier for your product idea. This is a big challenge for entrepreneurs just starting out. After all, where do you find a supplier, and how do you know they are legitimate? Below are some tips on how you can find the best manufacturer or supplier for your product needs.

First, what is a manufacturer, and is it the same as a supplier?

Manufacturers are businesses that make products out of raw materials. They then sell these goods to wholesalers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, consumers, and other businesses. Often a manufacturer will stick to a single type of product, or primarily work with a specific material.

A supplier often sources goods from various manufacturers to onsell to businesses, wholesalers, distributors, and more. However, they do not make the good themselves.

Should you use a manufacturer or a supplier?

This depends on the products you want to sell. If you want to create a custom product from scratch for your business you will need to talk with a manufacturer. However, if you just want to have branding or images on products already available, a supplier will be ideal. Here is a quick breakdown of your options;

  • Manufacturer – products your own product idea
  • Supplier – sells already existing products, often with options to customize colors or basic designs
  • Dropshipping Supplier – A company that provides already existing products and fulfills orders.

Domestic vs Overseas Manufactures and Suppliers

Whether you decide to manufacture products or source them from a supplier, you’ll need to decide where the product comes from. Both options have advantages and disadvantages.


Domestic manufacturers and suppliers are often more expensive. However, products arrive to you much faster. Additionally, it can be much easier to oversee designs and prototypes when working with domestic manufacturers. Finally, being able to advertise products as made in the USA can help with marketing.


Any manufacturer or supplier outside of the US is an overseas option. The most common countries to source manufacturers and suppliers are China, Taiwan, and India. These countries have a large amount of factories and workers to produce new products. This makes costs per product much lower, however, you will have higher shipping fees and longer shipping times. Furthermore, laws around intellectual property are less strict in these countries so your original design may be reproduced for other clients.

Where to find manufacturers or suppliers?

One of the safest places to find overseas suppliers is Alibaba. This website allows you to research manufacturers and start discussions with them easily. Furthermore, Alibaba has a qualification system for manufacturers and suppliers. The qualifications include;

  • Gold supplier ranking  - this means they pay for their membership
  • Verified ranking – this means a third party has visited and rated their manufacturing facility

Alibaba also offers trade assurance, which helps to protect your order from payment right through to delivery.

To find local manufacturers or suppliers use the CMA member list or other domestic directories. Or, search for the industry on Google and start contacting businesses to see if they can create your product. Some smaller companies may be listed on the directories, however, many offer custom product runs for businesses in their local area.

Considerations when Selecting a Supplier or Manufacturer

Now that you know where to find your manufacturer or supplier, you want to make sure you find the right one. Below are key considerations to keep in mind as you vet and interview each option.


Look at the reviews from previous clients and customers. Look for product quality, timeframes, and shipping.

Custom order availability

Check that they can create and supply your product within a reasonable timeframe. Do they have block-out periods where you can’t order products?

Lead time

How long will it take to produce and ship items?

Shipping costs

How much do they charge for shipping? What options do they have for shipping?

Minimum orders

What are the minimum order quantities for each product? How much does each unit cost? These are both negotiable, however, the larger the order, the cheaper the product.

Defect policies

What do they do if a product is incorrect or defective?

Payment terms

Is payment required upfront, or half upfront, and the rest when it ships?

Product samples

Find a manufacturer or supplier that will send product samples. This is especially important when creating customized goods.

Finding a manufacturer or supplier for your product idea can seem overwhelming. However, if you take your time and keep the considerations above in mind, you’ll soon find the perfect partnership. Additionally, once you find a great manufacturer or supplier, you can use them as your primary option going forward. Then, you can ensure you always have new and exciting products for your store.

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