Whether you’re buying off the shelf or commissioning custom-made products, selecting the right supplier is one of the two most important functions of an importing business (the other being sales, of course). The Internet is naturally the place to start (and here you are, good job). Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • View profiles of every company offering the products you want on Alibaba, Global Sources, Made-In-China, HKTDC, Good Factories, IndiaMart and others

  • Visit trade shows in the U.S., Europe and China looking for great products. EventsEye.com and TSNN.com have the most comprehensive trade show listings.

  • Follow up with the companies you like the best to arrange factory visits and begin discussions on pricing and other terms

  • Ask for advice and connections from the Embassy and Consul Generals of the country you want to import from. This will be a fun experience in and of itself.

  • Sign up for ImportGenius.com to identify suppliers of the brands you admire most.

  • Order samples from as many companies as you can and see if you can sell them through the Web.

Tip: If you get a chance to visit a factory, always visit the bathroom used by the line workers. If they aren’t bothering to create a quality work environment for their employees, you have no reason to think they’re going to treat you much better.

 

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