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Merry People source from a family owned company in China, and last weekend I was fortunate to be invited to their son's wedding
It was such a special experience for me to attend and made me realise how far I had come on my merry journey.
I started reflecting on the plane to China, my sourcing journey over the last 5 years. Whilst it has been hard and very testing at times, I think there are 3 main reasons why sourcing from China has worked for Merry People - which I will share with you below.
I might preface these learnings with some facts. Merry People is a young company, I have no prior experience in running/growing a company, we are not backed financially by a retail investor (or anyone for that matter) and we don’t have contracts with any major department store. On top of all of this, Australia doesn't have a lot of people, nor rain.
Basically I am a high risk customer – and from the outset, I am not the ideal customer the factory want walking through the door.
So why do I think it is working for us?
When I started with the factory, I told them my long term goal for Merry People. I painted out where I saw our niche in the Australian market, and my plans to one day take Merry People global. I presented a document with a 3, 5 and 10 year plan, which at a high-level basically showed our sales going crazy year-on-year (it was a bit ridiculous actually.) I showed how Merry People was different to the competitors in the market and where I thought we filled the gap. At the time I had no idea or plans on execution, but I just wanted to show them that I had ambition. They liked me!
Our factory have helped me with design & moulds. So for me it was very important they understood the purpose of the boots, so they could help me ensure my requirements were appropriate and guide me on possible improvements. Anytime you’re outsourcing manufacturing, I think it helps for the maker to understand the end user. They might have more expertise than you in the product capabilities and the technology available. It also gives them more context to the attributes that are most important to your customer.
3. I continue to work and invest in my relationship with our factory
Working with a Chinese factory can be challenging. One minute we are all smiles and rice wine, the next there is tension and the conversation becomes more heated.
Sourcing is not a set and forget activity. Especially if you're a small start up. You need them to be on your side and see you as an investment.
I visit the factory at least 2 times of year, and I have learnt how I can be better at working with them. It is important to have a timeline for everything and staying super connected to how production and samples are progressing. We are now planning our orders 8-12 months in advance. I have learnt that it will never be completely smooth sailing and I need to always anticipate things not going as planned.
For me, it doesn’t matter how clever you are with your marketing or how many sales you’re getting. If you don’t have a quality product that stacks up, I don’t think you have a business with longevity. So having a strong supplier relationship to ensure our quality has been very important to me!
If you’re about to embark on a sourcing journey with an overseas supplier, I hope this has helped!
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