Over the years people have asked me hundreds of questions related to starting a business; how did I do it? Where did I source my products? How can I trust random companies? How did I run a company (or two) during my master's degree? Today I thought I would answer a few of these questions as honestly and as openly as possible.
1. Where do you source your products?
Now, if you're expecting me to tell you my exact supplier, sorry I can't do that for legal reasons, but I can share how I started looking for a supplier. Simply put, Alibaba. For those of you who don't know what Alibaba is, it's basically the Chinese eBay, but for manufactures. Whatever you need can be found there, but be warned, it's not the best quality. I started by talking to suppliers on Alibaba and slowly progressed from there. Asking for recommended suppliers, and continuing in that manner until I found a few suppliers that ticked all the boxes. Today, I work with two different companies neither of which are listed on Alibaba, or any other supplier/manufacturer sites. For my second venture, which most of you probably don't know about as it's a small local business (WHY Industries - Cutlery hire for weddings and cooperate events) I sourced my suppliers through the recommendations of my current suppliers.
2. How do you trust them?
Honestly, at the start I didn't. But after working with these companies for a few months, developing a prototype, receiving samples and communicating daily, the relationship developed and so did the trust. Having said that, when my first shipment arrived I was still so nervous to open the boxes and find out what was in them. For all I knew, the boxes were empty. There is a video of me opening the first shipment and you can see the relief on my face as I opened the first box. Until you take the leap, you don't know. There is no insurance on international money transfers (I actually called the bank because I knew nothing about business at the start and asked), there is no guarantee they'll send anything, overall it's a risky and stressful time.
3. Juggling work, uni and business?
This is rather difficult to answer because I don't know what I did differently to any other university student that wanted to do well. I spent 16+ hours a day studying/working and I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner most days at my desk. I guess, patience, persistence and passion sums it up.
Thanks for all the questions over the years and I'll see you in the next blog.