Questions To Ask a Contractor or Material Supplier

We are working on making it easier to sort, search and filter through Maker’s Row. In the meantime, we put together a few questions to ask when first forming a relationship with a contractor, manufacturer or a supplier. These questions are for those that have their sample done and are ready to go into production:

CONTRACTORS (those doing production runs)

What is your minimum order quantity?

You want to make sure you know if you will be able to afford the minimum order quantity, and it can vary depending on the product you produce with the contractor, and sometimes the relationship you have with them. Also, ask if the minimum includes color-ways (for instance: is it 100 per color per style, or just 100 per style?)

What is your sample pricing?

Sample pricing ranges, depending on the product and contractor. If you will be doing the production order with that manufacturer, they might be able to work with you, so that your sample price stays as low as possible.

What is your production pricing?

You’ll want to know how much it is for 12 units, 100 units, 1000+ units, and if they do tiered pricing at all.

What is your turnaround time?

They should say they can make X amount within a week, month, etc. This can also depend on the product and the complexity. Also, ask if they do rush orders.

What are your payment terms for first time/return costumers?

If you are a returning customer, many contractors are willing to do net 15 or net 30. This is especially true if you have purchase orders.

Related Reading:  Sweat The Small Stuff: Why Details In Design Matter


Are you a mill, jobber, distributor, converter, agent or broker?

  • Mill: A factory where fabric or leather is created.
  • Jobber: Wholesale agents or companies that sell excess fabrics, leather and other materials.
  • Distributor: A person or company that provides wholesale fabrics to the public.
  • Converter: A factory that customizes generic fabric or leather through dye, print, wash, etc.
  • Agent: An individual who puts a buyer and a seller of immediately available and/or off-price fabrics together.
  • Broker: A person or company that shows materials from one or more mills within a given territory.

How often do you replenish this material?

In case you get a large order in the future!

Will this material work for the product I am designing?

You have to make sure that this will be a good material-product fit. If the material supplier doesn’t know, you can ask for a swatch to your production contractor, and they should be able to tell you.

What are your payment terms for first time/return costumers?

Similar to above with the contractor payment terms! Each material supplier has a different policy, and you want to know from the beginning.

I hope this helps! If you have any other good questions to ask, please add them below in the comments!

Also, here is a cheat sheet to print out: