June's Start-up Challenge: Week 5 - Hunting for the right supplier

June's Start-up Challenge: Week 5 - Hunting for the right supplier
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise NationEnterprise Nation

Posted: Fri 12th Jul 2013

StartUp Saturday alumni June Mineyama, founder of Mamimu Tokyo, is documenting her progress for us as she seeks to take her pattern business from idea to launch in just 12 weeks. In week five, June finds herself hunting for a good supplier as she starts a race against time.

Start-up Challenge | June Mineyama of Mamimu

Finally I am taking a time off from the day job this week and dedicating much needed time for my business, writes June (left). I've been busy talking to the printers and developing my design. On week one I set my goal for this 12-week challenge: "My goal is to sell my products - either online or in a physical shop - with some brand recognition." Now it's week five. My motivation is still here but time is against me. It looks like we are moving abroad in October for my husband's job and we'll be busy preparing for relocation.

Oh can I really make it in just seven weeks from now? Can I keep this blog going? I'm nervous but I'm trying to use this stress as a drive to work harder and make things happen quicker.

Cushions - Targeting both home and fashion markets

So I need to focus. Focus on my business offerings. The heart of my business is contemporary patterns  inspired by everyday urban surroundings. In principle, they can be applied to any product, such as leather bags, silk dresses, plastic trays, and more. However, as my time in the UK is now limited, I decided to focus on cushions. The reason for choosing that path is because cushions sit nicely in between home and fashion and I am hoping to attract attention from both industries. I've got two prototype cushions but I need more variety for photo shoots and to show potential retailers. It would have been nice to do a pop-up shop or exhibit in a trade show but given the time frame, that is unrealistic.

"I've got two prototype cushions but I need more variety for photo shoots and to show potential retailers."

Start-up Challenge | Mamimu cushion

Hunting for the right supplier

This is a classic tale of cheap, good and fast don't come all together. I contacted the fabric printer I found through asking an awkward favour in week three. They came through a recommendation and the samples they posted for me were of great quality (good). The unit cost was very competitive, although with a certain minimum order (cheap). But their turnaround time from the artwork submission was 8-9 weeks (NOT Fast). This won't work for me when I've got only seven weeks left for my 12-week challenge and when I'm leaving the country after the summer. In despair and desperation, I started to look for another supplier who could print and sew cushions. Luckily, I found one who can turn the job around in ten days after submitting artwork. Yay! They are good, fast but of course not as cheap as the first one. I am happy to pay for the faster turnaround, though. I'm not in despair anymore. I am now preparing artwork for eight cushions, with both front and back to be printed with different designs. It's quite a lot of work but working hard for myself, rather than someone else, is definitely more enjoyable.

"I'm preparing artwork for eight cushions. It's quite a lot of work but working hard for myself, rather than someone else, is definitely more enjoyable."

Start-up Challenge | Mamimu cushion artwork

Tips for dealing with printers

Being a graphic designer, I am used to talking to printers and supplying artwork. Whether you are producing cushions, marketing collaterals or packaging, here are my tips on how to deal with them. Tip 01: Ask for samples First and foremost, alway ask for samples through the post. Whether the printer comes through recommendation or just a Google search, check the quality with your own eyes. Otherwise it might end up an awful waste of time and money. Don't chance it. Tip 02: Produce a spec A spec illustrating dimensions, designs, colours and other requirements really helps your conversation with the supplier. Even a sketch that is scanned and emailed is better than verbal instructions only. Spelling out your requirements on the email is also a great way to make them understand what you want. The spec will also help the suppliers to give you an accurate quote. Tip 03: Use templates and a decent designer Lots of printers have artwork templates for the products they offer (ie, business card, scarf, tea towel). Ask for them and use them in order to avoid mistakes like going over printable area. You don't want to see your logo chopped halfway, do you? If you are not sure about image resolution, bleeding area, and so on, pay for a decent designer or artworker to make sure your artwork is correct. Your printer might be able to check it for you for extra charge. After submitting your artwork, any good printer will send you a proof for your approval. Make sure you are happy with it or, if you are not sure, get a designer or artworker to check it for you. Tip 04: Remember, cheap, good and fast don't come together This really is true. Pick just two. If they are cheap and good, you can't expect them to be fast. If they are cheap and fast, the quality may suffer. If they are good and can turn the job around fast, they might charge an express fee. Equally, don't be too demanding and boss them around if you are paying peanuts. It would only cause friction and doesn't make them feel like going extra miles for you. Remember, they are only human like you and me. Ask nicely and see what happens :-)

And finally...

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Photo credits: June Mineyama

Enterprise Nation
Enterprise NationEnterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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