It can be a daunting task to find resources for your business. Whether you are first starting out or just refining your list of suppliers, it definitely takes time and effort.
I’ve tried reaching out to other creative entrepreneurs to ask their advice in finding reputable companies and reliable resources but often get a negative response or no response at all. I can completely understand their reason for holding onto information that took them weeks or months to obtain.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve learned the secret to finding great business resources that you can go through step-by-step, but I haven’t. What I have to share today are some sources I use and ideas for obtaining your own list of suppliers that fit the needs of your small business.
LOOK AT LABELS
Back when my mom was making dozens of dolls for her business she repeatedly bought muslin from our local fabric shop. I looked at the end of the cardboard core and took note of the company name. It was definitely outside my comfort zone to call the company and ask for a wholesale account but it was the first step to a repeated practice in my business.
WORKING WITH WHOLESALERS
Before approaching any wholesale supplier there are some things you will need to be prepared to provide them. The first thing they will ask you for is proof that you are a retail business.
As a business in the US, you need to file your business name and obtain a reseller’s permit. You can find out more on business set up at the US Small Business Association. A wholesaler will most likely ask for a copy of your reseller permit. I’ve scanned mine into my computer so I can easily send it off in an email or make copies to give them in person or through the mail.
Many times a wholesaler will have a minimum order requirement. The first order is usually larger than the following orders. These requirements often restrict me from dealing with some suppliers but not all ordering levels are beyond my budget.
SHOPPING DISTRICTS FOR WHOLESALE BUSINESSES
I live fairly close to Los Angeles so I am fortunate enough to visit the fashion and floral district in person. The general public is welcome into these stores but discounted prices are offered only to resellers. Sometimes the items are marked with a code for wholesale pricing, Some establishments offer a percentage discount to resellers. Most of the places I shop don’t even have prices posted.
At the cutting tables they like to know if you are resale or not. They write up your purchase ticket accordingly. At the front of the store there are two separate purchasing desks. During your first purchase there they will ask for all of your business information which is usually found on your resellers permit. I always carry 4-5 copies of mine in case they also want one for their files. Upon repeat visits you only need to tell them your business name. They should have all of your info in their database.
Trims, Buttons and Zippers - There are dozens and dozens of trim, button and zipper shops to visit and it's a good idea to establish a relationship with the shop owner. They often offer a deeper discount for larger purchases and then cap it at a certain price point. Taken note of product specifications so you can call before coming in. If they take will call orders over the phone you may be able to have your order waiting for you when you walk in the door.
When you are just starting out as a purchaser in the wholesale market don’t be afraid to ask questions. Each and every supplier has a different requirement. Don’t make assumptions!
I often ask questions of retail stores that I frequently do business with. Ask them if they offer discounts on large purchases. Ask if they honor a reseller permit in any way. I have registered my permit with a large chain fabric store and they don’t charge me tax on my purchases. Always ask questions. You may be very surprised at what they will offer you!!
It's not always possible to find a wholesale resource for what I need so I collect coupon codes in multiple ways. I go online and print off coupon offers. I am on mailing lists for major craft and fabric stores so they send me coupons in the mail. I’ve registered for text messages with coupon codes.
The next time you shop at a retail craft, art or fabric supplies, ask them if they have a text code for coupon offers.
I have several Apps on my phone that offer coupon codes that can be scanned at the checkout register right from your phone.
SnipSnap - Allows you to snap photos of your coupons so you don’t need to carry them with you. This is a new app to me so I don’t have any experience with it yet. One review for this app reads “Amazing app! It breaks down the coupons in categories, so no more shuffling through our purses or wallets. The location feature is an awesome addition which alerts you when you enter a store of a coupon could be relevant! You save time and money... What could be better?!”
RetailMeNot - I’m often finding an extra coupon offer on this app. If you activate the locator a message will pop up when a coupon is available where you are shopping.
Other Apps you can look into are Michael's Crafts, Hobby Lobby and Joann Fabrics
There are websites I visit for smaller purchases. If I know the exact color, style and manufacturer of what I need, shopping online can save me money and lots of time. I’ve signed up for email alerts about sales and often act on them. My time is valuable so this is a viable option for me on many occasions.
I often place orders online. You may want to consider ordering from Joann Fabrics when they have great coupons and offer free shipping. Another great resource for fabrics is Fabric.com. I usually don't like to order anything if I haven't seen or felt the fabric. I like to know the quality of fabric before I make a purchase. They do sell fabric swatches if that will help you.
ETSY CRAFT SUPPLY SELLERS
I love supporting fellow Etsy shop owners. My best resource for small purchases and out of print fabrics is Etsy!
Did you learn something new from this list? What advice would you offer to someone looking for business resources and suppliers? If there is a resource that you’ve found helpful in saving you money or time I’d love to hear about it!