Meet the Manufacturer – day two

Building a partnership with a manufacturer that makes your products is an important foundation for a brand.

At the second day of the Meet the Manufacturer conference in London’s Old Truman Brewery, Pete Schonbeck of Produktshon Consulting and London Small Business Centre spoke to two creative and the people that run their factories to find out how to build this working relationship.

The panel consisted of:

  • Nick Ashley, creative director of Private White V.C
  • Mike Stoll of Cooper and Stollbrand
  • Sarah Watkinson-Yull, creative director of Yull Shoes
  • Jack Savva of Staffa Shoes

Private White and Yull Shoes are the two creative brands, Cooper and Stollbrand and Staffa Shoes are their manufacturers, respectively.

There has been a North/South disconnect in the UK, but there are a lot of possibilities in the UK for manufacturing.

People are now moving forward and recognising that we can optimise the skills we have in the UK, and there are advantages to having overseas manufacturers – such as speaking the same language and being physically closer to build a rapport.

There are advantages to going overseas, eventually you may need the scalability, but it is not impossible to start your operations over here.

It’s also more flexible to have your operations nearby, and the timescales are shorter. You can fulfil orders more immediately, rather than shipping from the other side of the world you can have a shipment delivered in a week (depending on the products etc.).

It also makes it cheaper to be able to pop over and check in on things – say you want to use an Italian factory you have to pay for flights every time you visit. Will you get something done the first time you visit? Probably not.

If you have a manufacturer down the road, or even a few counties a way, you can realistically drive down at a minimal cost and be involved with those operations. Especially for smaller businesses this can be nice, as you don’t need to give up too much responsibility too early on and you can have a more hands-on approach.

One fundamental thing is to listen to your manufacturer – they know what can be done and what can’t, so it’s good to listen. Having a good relationship is important so you feel you can trust what they are saying, of course. It works both ways.

Case study: Hope

Nayna McIntosh spoke at the event about how she sources factories for her brand. It was always really important for her to make her products in the UK.

Nayna developed a brand called Hope for 45+ year-old women whose bodies are changing but still want to look and feel great. After doing her market research, Nayna decided that most women can find something they like about their bodies, but it’s about emphasising the bits they love while still feeling comfortable.

Nayna believes that as women get older they start to care about where things are from, the same way you might care about the provenance of your food.

Reasons to #MakeitBritish

  • Sharing of ideas
  • Shorter reaction times
  • Lasting relationships with suppliers
  • Visibility of products at all stages
  • Able to visit factories and suppliers

She contacted Kate Hills, creator of the event, who gave her a list of UK suppliers she could contact. The team travelled the length and breadth of the UK and now have a set of six key suppliers.

Having such close relationships with their suppliers has allowed Nayna and her team to really build on their strengths. For example, Daas Trading has recommended a certain fabric for trousers that has gone on to be one of the best-selling garments at Hope.