Before you can start a business, you need to find a supplier – that goes for any business; whether you’re providing a service or physical goods. If you’re providing a service you need to have people read to fulfill that service, and if you’re selling goods, you need them in stock ready to hand over to buyers when they purchase them from you. Sourcing products from countries like China has become incredibly easy in recent years thanks to the emergence of websites like Alibaba and DHGate.

Finding a supplier has never been so simple

There was once a time when to find a factory in China you had to actually travel there – but gone are those days. Alibaba and similar sites are like a B2B version of eBay – simply logon, pinpoint the stock you’d like to buy, pay for it – and wait for it to arrive. Buying in bulk has never been so easy – anyone can do it! You don’t even have to have a company registered when you buy your first batches of stock since you can pay using your own credit card or PayPal account.

Of course such an open trading platform has its pitfalls; two of the main ones being counterfeit products and just outright scams. When starting up a business people tend to look for big brands to stock, and this is where sites like Alibaba and DHGate really need to be treated with suspicion – I can tell you from experience that literally none of the branded stock that appears on the aforementioned sites is legitimate. Big brands use established supply chains to distribute their goods around the world – the likes of Alibaba and DHGate aren’t one of them. Anyone claiming to be able to offer you a great price on an iPad or an iPhone, or even a high end pair of branded headphones just isn’t telling you the whole truth. When it comes to branded goods remember that if something appears too good to be true, it is!

“Branded goods” aren’t the only things you’ll find on Alibaba and DHGate though, there’s a whole world of other goods on offer – everything from cosmetics to electrical – a lot of stuff with fantastic margins. Selling unbranded stock may not be as glamorous as peddling branded gear but the hassle associated is a lot less, and the margins can be a lot, lot bigger.

Be wise to scams

I started out selling stock obtained directly from the factories in China. I fell for a few scams and lost quite a bit of money, but it was all experience = sifting out the bad from the good when it comes to suppliers is extremely important – now I deal direct with two factories who provide me with goods before I even pay for them. Because I buy directly from the factory I get a great deal – which means I can set my prices lower when I sell the stock, or make bigger margins by keeping prices high.

If you’re thinking about starting your own business but don’t know where to start – why not take a look on a B2B sourcing website? You never know – you might just find the inspiration you need! It’s not just about buying stock that’s listed either, I know lots of people who have had custom products manufactured from scratch by Chinese factories found on sites like Alibaba – and I also know people who opted to go for existing products but added their own branding to them.

When I stumbled across Alibaba I got pretty excited and squandered a load of cash on there. Don’t fall into the trap of buying anything, but do take your time to research the products on offer to see whether they’ll sell. Profit margins aren’t the only worry you face if you go buying lots of stock without thinking about it properly – cashflow can be affected, which can be a huge problem from the start. When you’ve found a product or niche you want to operate in, think about your outlet; will you sell it at a market or jumble sale? Or will you start your own website, or use a selling platform like Amazon or eBay? Ensure you set yourself goals of how many new products to bring in every month and how much profit you’d like to be making – essentially setting targets for the growth of your business. Starting a business has never been so easy thanks to the internet – so what’s stopping you?

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