When that big idea hits, it’s hard to know where to start to turn it into a product. You know you need a manufacturer, but don’t know a thing about finding one.

Manufacturing is intimidating. It’s a necessary step that must be conquered in order to turn your product idea into a business. For product-based businesses, it is undoubtedly one of the biggest barriers to starting.

With patience and persistence, it can be overcome. The journey won’t be easy. You will make mistakes, major investments and learn a lot about the world of manufacturing extremely fast.

Whether you’ve been making your products yourself up until now or are starting with an idea, this list will get you started on your search.

1. Referrals

The best place to start looking for manufacturers is to talk to people. Share your idea, or bits of your idea, with friends, family and peers. Ask for connections to manufacturers, suppliers, and owners of product-based businesses that manufacture. Follow the trail even if the connections aren’t in the industry of your product. Businesses keep the name of their manufacturers close. Rather than asking for the name of their manufacturer, ask how they found it. Learn from these businesses by applying the same process to your own sourcing.

Start Your Search At: LinkedIn

2. Trade Shows

Some industries have trade shows that host manufacturers as vendors. If your industry does not, attend trade shows with suppliers as vendors. For example, if you are trying to produce a sewn product, attend a textile trade show. Connect with and begin relationships with vendors. Ask for referrals to the manufacturers they send their fabrics to for being made into finished products.

Start Your Search At: Trade Show News Network

3. Industrial Designers

For technical products, start by working with an industrial designer to create your prototype. Often industrial designers will be able to refer you to a manufacturer for your final production run or provide you with resources to continue your search.

Start Your Search At: Core 77 Industrial Design Search

4. Manufacturing Agents & Sourcing Reps

Bypass a lot of the headache of manufacturing by working with manufacturing agents and sourcing reps. These are businesses or individuals that know manufacturing well and have connections across many industries. They can source a manufacturer, raw material suppliers and even help you import your products if they are made overseas. Working with an experienced agent is a great way to get started.

Start Your Search At: Google

5. Sourcing Directories

Use online databases to source raw materials, parts and factories.

Start Your Search At: ThomasNet and Maker’s Row

6. Make it Yourself

There are many advantages to producing products yourself. You maintain control of the quality and costs, enjoy the many benefits of just-in-time manufacturing and are able to grow your business at steady and sustainable pace. Consider hiring contractors to help you set up the production line. For example, hire a sewing contractor to create your patterns and teach the assembly process to your sewers.

Want more tips for getting your product manufactured?
Join the Facebook group, Community of Product Business Owners, to catch a replay of my live presentation, Manufacturing 101. Complete the form below to request an invite into the group.