Small Batch Production: Dream Big, Start Small

  •    Debbie is an Atlanta based freelance writer with bylines on HGTV, DIYNetwork, Walmart.com and the co-owner of Life Simply Made Media.

One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs who make unique physical goods is finding the right manufacturing partner. You need someone that can design products to your exact specification, but it can't cost too much. Oh, and it would be nice if the products could be made in America too. Fortunately, there's an answer: small batch production.

As the name suggests, small batch production refers to the process of creating a small batch of products as an initial test. Below are some of the advantages of starting small, as well as tips on how you can go big when you're ready.

Control Costs

While starting small is not as cost-efficient as ordering products on a larger scale, it is still a smart way to control your costs if you're starting a new product line. For many entrepreneurs, especially fashion retailers, having too much of a particular product can be a liability. It's better to be sold out of a special "limited-time" item than to be stuck with hundreds of unsold pieces of merchandise.

Test New Products

Speaking of "limited-time" products, small batch production provides a great opportunity to do some low-cost market testing. Would a new design look better in a different color? What if you changed the styling a bit? A small batch lets you gauge whether your customers prefer the product without committing to a large order.

Reduce Waste

One of the problems with large-scale production is how wasteful it can be. Small batch production can help you control the materials you're using and reduce your company's environmental footprint. With more and more consumers seeking out brands that are sustainable, using small batch production techniques can be a valuable marketing differentiator.

Grow When You're Ready

While small batch production can help you launch a product, you don't have to stick with the same manufacturer for the rest of your life. If one of your product takes off and you need to meet the increased demand, you can either work with the partner to scale up your production or find a different partner. You'll have to work through some kinks as you bring on a new supplier, but you'll be in a much stronger position than if you had started big right away.

Choosing a Partner

Before you select a partner, make sure you get all your questions answered. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ask for average costs based on the type of product you're developing rather than going in with a specific order. This will give you a good frame of reference for negotiating.

  • Have a total budget in mind, but feel free to provide a range rather than telling them the maximum amount you can afford. If they can't work within your constraints, they'll tell you.

  • Ask about their ability to scale production. The market can be fickle and it would be frustrating to learn they can't keep up with demand when one of your products becomes hot.

If you're interested in learning more about small batch manufacturing or want to contact a factory to get an estimate, Maker's Row provides access to a wide range of manufacturers for a low monthly price.

Above all, remember that this is your business and you call the shots. It's your ideas that the customer is buying. Finding a great small batch partner that can grow with you is simply how you make your ideas a reality.