Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A New Venture... if I can afford it

I've been rolling around an idea now for about a year of an adventure I'd like to take. It will involve selling handmade items. It will involve fabric. It will involve felt.

I've been researching like mad. Reading books. Blogs. Talking with entrepreneurs. Designers. Asking questions. Formulating a plan.

And now I'm at the manufacturing stage. Let's face it: I already know just about all there is to know about fabric. My stash is big enough to open my own fabric shop, I reckon!! But felt? Felt I know nothing about.

I asked a friend who works with felt on the daily about where she buys quite a long time ago, and drudged up that old email from back when my idea was more of a tiny inkling than a full fledged wish. It got me started on a path down the Etsy, Ebay, local shop lane, seeking out shops with wool felts. The kind I'm looking for.

The first place I came across offered a free color card and a couple samples for me to play with. They want my business. They want me to know what they have is the best. I agreed excitedly! But I fear my excitement was short lived.

As I searched, I found Etsy sellers are asking for big bucks for their color cards, some as much as $30, I saw! Really felt shops?? $30??

I can't afford to pay that kind of money (plus shipping) for pieces of paper with felt glued to them. As much as I want to, I just don't have that kind of cash. And without offering a sample to touch, pull, sew, destroy, I'll never know if their product is right for what I have planned.

I could just ask if they would send me a color card and a couple swatches (even of last year's colors!) but would that be rude of me? They do have to make a living, after all. But by not having those samples, I can't even add them to my "potential supplier" list. Without seeing the colors, I won't know if theirs is the right fit for my new adventure. Without knowing how it washes, shrinks, bleeds, I won't be able to confidently use their product to create something special for all of you.

So now I'm stuck. Do I risk offending potential suppliers by asking for free goods up front? Or do I cross them off my list completely, potentially crossing off a product that will be a good fit for my venture?

What would you do?



  1. I would ask. The worst they can do is say no. And I think since you're really upfront about understanding that they are a business and you understand that they need to make money, you do have a better chance. I can't see anyone being offended by you asking, especially if you include that you're looking at them as a potential supplier.

    They still might say no, but I really don't think that it's rude of you. You have a business to look out for as well.

  2. If they actually have the cards for sale already in their shop as a prepared product, I'm not sure I would ask for a free one myself, but that's just me. Asking never really hurts though, especially if you can be really upfront about your business needs and the likelihood of placing a future order with them. You might ask alternatively if they offer a discount or some other arrangement with businesses (like yours) that would allow you to purchase a card at a reduced price or get one for free with your first order--sort of like you place a sample order and they furnish you with a card. It would allow you to make some products to test with their felt and still have the color card to compare.

    Have you looked at Benzie Bazaar on Etsy yet? I have worked with Renae in the past and love the quality of her felt and the range of modern colors she carries. https://www.etsy.com/shop/BenzieBazaar

  3. Danny, if I were you, I would ask Maureen Cracknell where she gets hers from. I think she probably buys it by the bolt wholesale, but I bet she can help you out a lot. You know that she makes and sells all of those birthday crowns, right?

  4. Just in case you don't already follow her http://maureencracknellhandmade.blogspot.com/

  5. I don't know what to tell you about the card but I am excited for your new venture!!!

  6. Haha, Maureen came to mind too. It's such a hard thing, isn't it?! I don't know much, if anything!, about felt and colour cards - are they like fabric solids cards?? They're not cheap either, but they do have all the different colours. Starting a new business venture is never cheap :( I'd suggest trying one shop that has the biggest range/best value for money and good reputation. Pay for that, and try the felt out. If nothing else, it'd provide some practise materials?!

    PS - just checked out Benzie and the prices/range looks good!

  7. maureen was the first person i thought of too, i'm not sure how I feel about asking for free samples upfront, never having done business with you before and if they're selling them... im doubtful you'd have much success - I agree though if you contact some and explain the situation you may get a discounted rate.. cant wait to hear more!!

  8. I've no new advice but really looking forward to learning more about your plans.

  9. Get on with the asking, if they are offended, you won't want to do business with them anyway! If they can't afford to send you maybe 2 or 3 colours, maybe not a whole colour card, then their business is probably not viable so won't a good supplier in the long run. Good luck x

  10. I was going to write exactly what Hadley wrote...they could potentially get a lot of business from you in the future so ask!! Good luck Danny - excited for you!

  11. If youre in business you have to put your hard face on sometimes! If we re sourcing new materials, we always have to have samples for evaluation and test, and suppliers will usually send them foc. You will need to tell them what volumes you are talking about. And don't forget to ask what their discount structure is like!
    Go dor it. If they can't see further than the cost off few samples, they don't deserve your business.

  12. To be honest, unless you're big business you're unlikely to get whole cards full from them - if you think felt cards are expensive, you'd faint at the cost of mohair and alpaca ones! Most of my bear fabric suppliers will offer a sample or two either free or for a £1 or £2, but not a full sample of their collection. How much do you need to establish the quality? Also, bear in mind with things that are heavily dyed, like felt, that different dye lots could end up with differences in shade, maybe once you've established how close a couple of samples are to the screen colour you can have more confidence in their colour selection that way.

  13. What about asking if they have any scrap off cuts that you can have for free or cost of postage rather than a colour card? Then you can do all your shrink/co,our fast etc testing on it and THEN order a colour card once you've worked out what range you want to work with?


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