Expert advice and takeaways on alternative sourcing, what matters, and how it can work for you.

Product sourcing horror stories aren’t difficult to come by. In my experience, this is the piece of the design process where everything can easily fall apart, quickly, without warning (seemingly), and in a way that leaves entrepreneurs financially unstable. The number of times I’ve heard someone tell me they can just “get it made in China for a dollar” is too many. And while I’ve spent years meeting with and establishing relationships with counterparts in China, I’ve also learned that there are limitations, sustainability issues, and a flooded marketplace where you aren’t the gold to be won- the manufacturers are.

Something New

As all market trends do, this one, international product sourcing, is now shifting and that’s what we are going to talk about today. Enter Tim Jordan, ecommerce expert, and product sourcing experimenter. Part of his process of getting to seven-figures was jumping in and figuring it out. Luckily for us, he is sharing that knowledge so you don’t have to. These days, you can find Jordan spilling his secrets on his podcast Private Label Legion, running the show at Hickory Flats, or in Central America where his strategic partnerships are funneling business in every direction.

Working for Small Business

First, let’s talk about the fact that most sourcing platforms, services, and partnerships are generally offered to the huge conglomerate groups. This model, for as long as I’ve been in the product world, has been hurting small businesses because, as we know, when there’s no access- there’s no assets. For Jordan, and his team, he wanted to focus on building something sustainable, profitable, and transparent… for everyone, on both sides. His efforts to avoid exploiting the local populations where he traveled for sourcing helped Jordan build up a reputation where artisans wanted to work with him, because he was offering that transparency.

Takeaway #1: If you build your business in a way that is unsustainable, dishonest, or exploitative in nature, eventually you will lose.

Sustainability Disrupts Poverty

All of the talk about migration these days puts the magnifying glass directly on the fact that there are extremely impoverished cultures fighting to survive. Partnerships with skilled workers in Central and South America can help communities rebuild, stabilize themselves, and grow their own wealth. These are the types of alternative sourcing options we should all be standing behind. Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve talked about sourcing and social good as a path to success, but now it isn’t just Tom’s shoes, we are seeing this model in so many areas of our business ecosystem. This is like sourcing on steroids. A scenario where everyone wins.

Takeaway #2: Sourcing isn’t just finding a product for the cheapest price out there, with quality as a secondary detail. Sourcing should be about building partnerships and doing honest business in a way that benefits all parties involved.

Build In Protection

When Hickory Flats started offering their alternative sourcing options to the public and other small businesses, they knew they had to build in balance of:

  1. Protecting their artisans and the relationships they had built.

  2. Protecting their infrastructure and the process they had built.

  3. Protecting the value of the high quality approach they had built.

The goal, to best serve their clients, was to have this platform that made sure everyone was protected, everyone was thriving, and that in turn, creates a culture of high quality products.

Takeaway #3: When you reach this level of transparency in your business, the other pieces take care of themselves and create space for growth.

Storytelling Is Here to Stay

Let’s tell the story of the artisans, the producers. Add a tag detailing why this story matters and what this product means. Then, you’re not selling a product, you’re selling a brand. You’re not worried about selling a product on an ad because the product is high-quality  and it takes care of itself. Let your consumer join the story, this is a winning formula.

Takeaway #4: When you have a better product and a better story, it doesn’t matter. Stop trying to sell a generic product. Create a unique product with a unique story and it sells itself.

The Right Resources in the Right Order

Going to Central America and having a unique product created that you’ve never sold before, or that no one’s ever seen before can be scary. You don’t know how deep that water is but you can take the data of other sales, other sellers, and other products that and reverse engineer that to see the potential. We talk about the right things in the right order  with the right resources often. That’s part of what Jordan has lined up that is contributing to his success.

Takeaway #5: It doesn’t matter how much money you move, it’s how profitable you are. When your process is right, and you’re working in the right order, it’s much easier to be profitable.

Read the original INC article published on April 1, 2019.

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