27 Dec How to Secure Your First Meeting With a Factory
Now that you’ve defined who and what you’re looking for and compiled a list of potential partners to work with it’s time to reach out and start talking to people. From my experience there is no best way to first approach a garment factory, the way you reach out very much depends on what information you have available and how big (and well-organized) the factory is.
I like to establish the first contact via telephone to let them know that I’m interested. Then I send them an email or I stop by to take a look in person. I prefer to stop by only if I already have samples ready to show them.
The conversation could look something like this:
Me: Hi, my name is Virginia, how’s it going?
Factory: Great, how can I help?
Me: Yes, so I’m launching a new clothing line in June and I’ve got your contact through Person X from Company Y. He/She has spoken very highly of you so I was wondering with whom I should get in touch to talk about potentially working together?
Factory: Version 1: Oh great, you can email Anna via email@example.com
Version 2: Okay, do you have samples? You can come over any time on Friday to show me
Me: Okay, thank you so much, I’ll do that!
I like reaching out by calling them because it does a couple of things:
- it let’s them know that you’re interested in working with them so they’re mentally prepared for when you walk through the door or email them
- you can find out the name and email of the right person to talk to which increases the chance of the email actually being read and you getting a reply
- you’ll find out what to expect when communicating with the garment factory: how good is their English, do they require you to bring samples, etc.
If you decide to reach out via email first that’s fine too, however, there are a couple of Do’s and Don’ts that are worth mentioning:
- Keep it short and simple!!! No more than 2 paragraphs max!
- Make a great first impression and include ALL of your contact information as well as website link if you have one already
- Show that you’re serious about doing business and building a relationship:
- Briefly introduce yourself and your endeavor (2 sentences)
- Be concise about what service you’re looking for and the quantities you can do (Cutting? Sewing? Trimming? Production Management? Everything?)
- Ask whether they would be okay with you stopping by and let them know when you’re available
- Don’t be too wordy and don’t make your email complicated to understand
- Don’t ask for pricing or turnaround time in your email. They cannot possibly answer those questions without seeing the garments. If they do, stay away.
- Don’t show up unprepared. If you have samples, great (make sure they’re presented in a production friendly way)
- If you don’t have samples, make sure you bring sketches and swatches so they know what they’ll be working with
- Don’t go too low on the minimums for your initial contact.
- Start working with them and later coordinate to produce a lower quantity to get you started.
- Be realistic. Don’t say 500-ish units if you’re really looking for 50-100.
So, are you already freaking out about my email do’s and don’ts? Not sure what to write? It’s really not that hard but if you’ve never cold emailed anyone I understand that this can be an intimidating process so I’ve copied an email that I’ve sent to factories before and I’ve underlined the bits and pieces that you should replace to adapt it to whatever you need.
GARMENT FACTORY EMAIL TEMPLATE:
With all that being said, what if you don’t have an email address or phone number? Especially if you’ve found the factory through “field research” you might just have a name and an address.
Well, then it’s time to get moving and head over to see if you can find the person and start the conversation.
Here is a list of recommendations for when you’re visiting a garment factory unannounced:
- don’t show up between 11:30AM and 1PM because people are on lunch break and they might even lock the front door. Show up between 8:30AM-10:30AM or between 3PM and 4:30PM but definitely no later than that because most factories close around 5PM and you will need some time to talk to the manager and take a look at their production
- Bring pen and paper to take down information as well as a phone to take pictures. ALWAYS ask if you’re allowed to take pictures. NEVER EVER just shoot away!
- Bring your samples if you have any, sketches, swatches, and any other production information you already have. Organize it well because your first impression counts
- Walk in through the front door and immediately ask for the person you’re looking for. Don’t just start wandering around looking at stuff, that’s rude and potentially dangerous.
PRO TIP ON PROPER GARMENT FACTORY ETIQUETTE
Remember, from the seamstress to the production manager, you are talking to people who are probably twice as old as you and have most likely spent their entire life in the fashion industry. They want to see you succeed because if your business grows, theirs will too.
Don’t assume you know everything already! Producing your raw materials or sewing your products is their job so they’re the expert here, NOT YOU.
TREAT THEM WITH RESPECT AND LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY!
Bad attitude is the number one reason why both, suppliers and contractors have told me they break off working relationships with young (or established) designers.
“Well…” you think, “customer is king!”. Yeah, that may be true but remember, unless they’ve agreed to work with you, you’re not a customer yet. So you better be nice and listen to what they have to say.
Generally speaking, suppliers and contractors see working with young designers as “doing them a favor” rather than closing a profitable business deal. Sure, you might be the next big name but truth is, most young brands fail and they know that.Sewing your products is the factory's. They’re the expert, NOT YOU! Click To Tweet
As of right now you’re not a very profitable customer (yet). Every time they agree to meet with you they’re investing into your business by donating their time and expertise. Thus, you don’t want to cause any problems. You should appreciate their time and let them know you’re grateful for their help!
Finding the right garment factory is not easy. I did my best to cover virtually every aspect.
That said, no two designers, no two brands, and no two factories are the same. You will undoubtedly face unique challenges and obstacles in your journey. Finding solutions challenges your creativity and makes you a better designer and entrepreneur.
The most important part is to not let the problems drain your energy and your financial resources before you can make your business successful.
So, congrats on making it to the end of this series! I hope that learning from my experiences will save you at least a handful of headaches and tough days. If you want to download the e-book to this series you can click here.
For more advice, leave me your questions in the comments below and I will try to answer them!