Loyalty to Suppliers is the Way to Go
Posted on March 13 2018
I want to present some of my musings for those who are working in retailing wholesale and making their own products. These notes apply particularly to jewelry designers.
Think of your suppliers as extensions of your own business, they should be allies who play a key role in your success.
In my early days, I only bought small amounts of silver wire, findings and stone beads. Then one day along came an account, which grew over the years from 5 stores to 176!
My first order with the Nature Company was about $5000. A friend lent me the money to buy my supplies and I repaid her immediately when the Nature Company paid me. The orders grew to $40,000 several times a year.
I had my production studio at that time in the ICB Building in Sausalito. Down the passage from that studio was a company called Makens.
The Makens business was owned by John Peterson and his sons. John has always been in the habit of keeping a fatherly eye on new designers, however poor and inexperienced, encouraging them instead of exploiting their ignorance! He was there with the advice I needed and when my orders grew ever larger, he would extend the vital credit I needed to get the jobs done. There was a time when he had extended $15,000 to help me with my first $40,000 order.
This kindness and understanding soon developed to our mutual benefit. I went into business with my friend Andrew Romanoff, producing a line of Swarovski jewelry in the old Creamery in Point Reyes. Over the years, that jewelry line spread into about 300 accounts across the USA and Makens was there to supply our findings and keep us safe.
James A Murphy and Sons
Andrew and I once made a round trip to a trade show in Los Angeles just to seize the opportunity for a face to face meeting with the founder of a leading manufacturer of specialized Silver and Gold beads on the East Coast called James A Murphy and Sons. When I met Jim Murphy, a friendly and portly gentleman, I asked him why he had been a manufacturer for so long. Jim smiled and said “I love the smell of beads”. Perfect. We became friends there and then and I have been buying my special beads from the company for several decades now. He too advanced me $15,000 worth of beads for a Nature Company order at one point.
Allow for Delays
When you commit to delivery dates to your customers, you must add the lead times required by your suppliers, together with the time required for your own production and delivery schedules, PLUS at least a few days’ grace for contingencies.
Make sure that the customer is given information about your lead time requirements in writing. Some buyers will leave reordering to the very last minute, expecting almost over night delivery.
I believe that a good supplier relationship is worth preserving, even if your business grows. In theory you can shave your costs by by-passing your original suppliers, perhaps by exploiting your new bulk buying capacity and dealing directly with the manufacturers.
You’ll get such advice as your grow, especially from an accountant or financial adviser with the philosophy that business is only about making money.
Establish a lasting and trusting relationship and your original suppliers will be behind you in a crisis, repaying your loyalty in ways that many be worth far more than the small savings you could have achieved in bypassing them.
Some designers may seem to depend for much of their success on securing exclusive beads. But look closely at their work over a period of time and you will see that they stand out from the crowd more because of their creativity in how they use widely available components in an original way and in the sheer quality of their workmanship.
You will discover your own sources and will make your own friends in the Wonderful World of Beads. But, amid all the delights of acquiring new beads, remember that your hobby has become a business and that your success will depend on whether you can sell the beads again at a profit.
I want to name some of my favorite suppliers for you, those who have been constantly reliable and understanding when things get tricky, which they do from time to time.!I will add more if they come to mind!
We have been together in the bead business for many years. Since the late 1980s when he became one of my suppliers for the big Nature Company orders. I have grown to love him and his wife Poonam and he still finds treasures for me and helps me when I need help along the way! (Ask me for his email!)
I have been buying my silver and gold fill findings from this company and watched them grow over the decades. Their catalog is extensive and they have a huge selection in chain, clasps and other findings. It’s a good idea to contact them for a list of the bead shows they attend and sell at and make your way to their booths.
Beautiful Balinese findings and beads. The best. Again, find out where they are showing and visit Jerry. What a friend.
A company new to me who supply me with the most beautiful and simple silver bead caps in several sizes. What a boost to the subtle quality of my jewelry.They too have a huge collection of chains and findings in Sterling Silver and Gold fill. I have just started making a line of micro faceted stone bead necklaces and yes, they have the most beautiful stone strands.
And you can always find a few supplies direct from me!