Alibaba is a PITA. More precisely negotiating with manufacturers on Alibaba is a PITA. I will go into my struggle and progress in this post and hopefully someone can learn from my experience so far.

If you are interested in sports clothing manufacturers stay tuned because I ordered samples from manufacturers and I will review them, pick the best ones and let you know who I am working with.

As mentioned in my previous post, I want to get out of eCommerce and I want to sell my main website this year. Right now it’s not worth as much as it should be and I am bringing it up to the point where someone will buy it for at lease $100k. That’s my goal.

To do that I will be utilizing three traffic sources, Amazon, Facebook and Google. All three places have the potential to bring in hundreds of sales every week.

I think Amazon is a big key to what’s missing in my business. I can get into how I’m going to use Amazon in another post which I will link here.

In short I am going to be sending products from China to the USA, to a FBA prep-packing warehouse, who will check the quality before they package my products off to an Amazon FBA warehouse. To which I can offer my customers next day delivery on sweet Amazon prime.

Sounds good? It will take at least two more months to get there depending on how quick I find the right supplier in China AND that’s not accounting for any hiccups that may occur along the way.

The main product I sell on  the website in question is T-Shirts. However the customers I sell to would also like athletic sublimation polyester polo shirts. With my designs on of course.

Unfortunately I know of zero eCommerce fulfilment companies such as Teespring or Gearbubble that offer sublimation polo shirts. This means I have to look for manufacturers who can.

I searched for manufacturers in the UK, USA, Australia and China.

From extensive research the polo shirt I would like my designs to go on has been created by an Australian company who I contacted and at first they wanted my business. Unfortunately the director of the company has stopped replying to my emails.

I gave him my design and he created a mockup that looked stunning which is so annoying. I felt like he teased me on this. He offered me $14 per polo shirt as well. I can’t describe how frustrating that is and I hope my design doesn’t start popping up on shirts for sale in Australia.

Mykel at http://aussiepacific.com.au I’m talk to you. I love your polo shirts, I know you can deliver so help me out. Pleeeease.

Next I found a company in the UK called Scimitar. A well known brand with lot’s of good exposure, who can make really nice shirts. 50 shirts works out at £17 per shirt ($21 a shirt), that’s £850 not including shipping to the USA. Anything above $800 worth of product passing through the USA I have to pay customs duty tax. So this is an added cost using this company. Ordering below 50 shirts and it becomes too unaffordable.

The benefit of using Scimitar aside from the fact they would look amazing is that I can go to the factory and inspect my order before I send them out.

To be affordable I had no choice but to turn to Alibaba who have thousands of manufacturers and what seems to be hundreds of companies who can make my polo shirt. The downside is finding a good one that ticks all the right boxes.

I have been shopping around for a manufacturer who can recreate the polo shirt I like. The problem… Every manufacturer you contact can make your product. I think if you ask a company that specializes in making curling irons and ask them if they can make your polo shirt, they’ll say yes I can easily and “best quality too!”

Today is a very special day because after what seemed like forever I finally ordered my first sample an hour ago. It’s taken me four weeks. Four long weeks to get to the point of paying for a sample. Negotiating paying for a sample has taken one week. I don’t know why the Chinese make it so hard to do an easy thing.

I won’t go through every detail but all I will say is the manufacturers on this website can be stubborn. I always try to leave my ego at the door when I go into negotiate a sample (and my future bulk orders) but it almost seems like they don’t want my business. It’s like they don’t realise I have hundreds of other people I can give my money too and they don’t care if I go somewhere else.

One of the things I ask for is a reference. I don’t care if they have been a gold member for 8 years an they have inspection checks and trade assurance. If you can’t give me a reference then we won’t do business. (This was my headspace going into this four weeks ago.) I think I read it on a website when doing research, if they can’t provide a simple reference then it’s a red flag. So I was adamant on speaking to a reference.

You have to remember that this is my first time ordering on Alibaba and I don’t want to be another scam story. If they can give me a reference that I can contact and that reference is real, has a legitimate website and responds to my questions with good answers, then we can do business (so you would think)…

…I have contacted over 40 manufacturers this month and only two have given me a good reference. One manufacturer got close to a sample but at the point of payment he refused to do a Paypal or Trade Assurance with me. He wanted me to pay through Westen Union. To which I told him to F*CK *** but in a nicer tone of course. We went back and fourth but he refused to do Trade Assurance WHICH he offered on his Alibaba profile page. Slightly annoying.  So much time wasted.

That’s Kevin at http://www.starbesports.com/.

I’m not saying Kevin at “GuangZhou Starbe Sports” is a scammer. I don’t know and I’ll never find out because I am not going start a relationship that ends up with me sending thousands of dollars into someones bank account and I am not covered. Red flag? I tried explaining to this guy but he refused to do Trade Assurance. He told me to come back when I’m ready to do business. Such a shame because he did provide me with a reference. Out of the hundreds of manufacturers to choose from, I chose YOU.

It must be me?

The only other sports clothing manufacturer to give me an amazing reference was Doris from Passion Sportswear. Shout out http://passionsportswear.com.

It took us a couple of weeks but one Paypal invoice later and we’ve got a sample in the works. I cannot share the reference she gave me but this reference was GOOD and their products looked GOOD. The only problem is she’s slightly more expensive than others I have spoken to, however I want to see her sample which cost $50.

I can’t say Doris is a slam dunk to work with just yet. She’s yet to prove her services to me but I am hopeful and time will tell. I will come back and update you on that. I wish I could show you my sample but it will give away my website.

What to look for when looking for a manufacturer on Alibaba.com?

I am an not an expert, far from it. I am yet to receive my first sample however I recommend you check out Andrew Minalto who seems to know his stuff. Andrew has answered questions for me within 24 hours of contacting him. He has helped me out a lot. I definitely recommend you check him out. andrewminalto.com/alibaba-scam-exposed/

I myself look for companies with gold supplier and trade assurance badges. I like to see that their premises have been checked by Alibaba and they have a decent volume transaction level. Then the big one for me is getting a reference which is very very very very very very VERY hard to get. If you do get one it’s normally rubbish.

One manufacturer gave me a reference who just ordered his first sample and hadn’t done his due diligence by the looks of it. That person must have more faith in people than I do because the company had no trade assurance or transaction volume. It was not the reference I was looking for.

I am looking for someone who’s ordered in bulk and they’ve worked together for a long time and has good things to say.

I contacted Andrew Minalto about my reference problem and he said it’s common for manufacturers to not want to give references, 1) because they don’t want to give away their customers and 2) because their customers don’t want people to know who their suppliers are.

I get it, it makes sense however the thought of sending a company thousands of dollars halfway around the world to a stranger who could just walk away with your money is scary. Talking to a reference who vouches for a company absolutely helps with trusting them because you know they’re legit. It doesn’t mean to say they can’t pull a fast one BUT it helps me to trust them in the negotiation process.

Since talking to Andrew however, I am letting my guard down. I am in talks with a few other manufacturers who tick all the right boxes everywhere else. I am in the process of ordering samples and I’ll go from there.

Aside from wanting bang my head against a wall some days, looking for manufacturers on Aliaba has been lot’s of fun. It’s new to me so it’s a good break from the usual repetitive Facebook stuff.

As always this is not the end of this blog post I will come back and update as I move along in my journey.

I have called some manufacturers out in this post for good and bad reasons and there is a reason for that… When I was looking for reviews of manufacturers I found NONE. Out of over 40 different companies I found nothing on Google. So I am leaving company names and websites on this article so people like me who search for reviews will hopefully find this article and will get an idea of who they are. You can contact me as well if you like.

As I use more manufacturers and continue through my process of finding the perfect polo shirt I will list the companies I use for samples and my opinion. Doris at Passion Sportswear seems like a good choice so far and I can’t wait to make an update with my review of my first ever sample from Alibaba.com.

Speak soon.
Andrew Ormes.