Expert advice was shared and knowledge was gained about manufacturing in the UK and overseas at the Made in Britain: Sell Overseas event, organised by Enterprise Nation on Wednesday 21 January 2015, at Somerset House, and aimed at start-up businesses.

There was an assorted audience with representatives from the fashion, cosmetics, homeware and technology industries in attendance.

Dessy Tsolova, Founder of Fashion Insiders, presented her advice on finding a fashion manufacturing partner. She was joined by Kate Hills, founder of Make It British, who explained the benefits of manufacturing in the UK and shared her top tips for working with UK manufacturers.

Kate explained that better lead times, better communication and a lower carbon footprint are why it is beneficial to manufacture in the UK.

Having your manufacturer closer to where you’re based is helpful because you can keep an eye on the quality and often, you can order small quantities.

This is particularly important when you’re a small business because you don’t want all your money tied up in stock.

In summary, Kate’s top tips for success were:

  • Do your research.
  • Call people, don’t just email.
  • Visit the factory.
  • Ask questions.
  • Don’t expect cost prices on the spot.
  • Be organised.
  • Play to a manufacturers strengths. There are some things that you just wouldn’t make in the UK, or involves a lot of labour and would be expensive in the UK.
  • Don’t oversample.
  • Consider hiring an expert.
  • Make a commitment to your supplier.

Dessy went on to explain the need-to-know facts for when, after lots of thought, one chooses to manufacture overseas.

Her advice covered the need to have specs and tech packs available, MOQs and negotiation, quality control and the importance of communication and respect for who you work with.

Being respectful of different cultural norms and remembering how they can impact your business schedule is key. For example, Chinese New Year and Italy’s business closure during the first week of January every year.

Kate and Dessy were then joined by Jen Taylor from Hokolo London and Janan Leo of Cocorose London to form the discussion panel.

Labelling and tariff codes were hot topics. The authenticity of the Made in Italy label came into question, as did a possible Made in Europe label.

Overall, the importance is that fashion start-ups are informed of all of their options and are therefore able to make decisions with confidence, for the good of their business.

Follow the conversation on Twitter #StartUp2015

Image credit: Enterprise Nation

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