Whether you are starting a hairdressing business or a hardware shop you will need to first find a source for your raw materials and for the goods you'll sell, and the internet is the best place to look.
Most businesses need a supplier for their raw materials, and one of the most important jobs for any owner of a business – regardless of if they're new or old - is to find a good reliable source for raw materials, and one of the best places to start looking is on the internet.
Finding most things on the internet starts with a search on Google, however finding a business supplier is a little different. Many business suppliers won't or don't publicise their websites or use Google AdWords, instead they advertise through a series of specialist websites and networks or through associations.
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The specialist suppliers
Unless you're starting completely from scratch you probably already know a few suppliers, however it's always worthwhile looking around to see if they are any other suppliers that can offer a better price and a better range. The best starting point for a supplier is normally on the website of your trade association or on the website for a trade publication associated with your sector.
The Trade Association Forum lists hundreds of different national associations scattered all around the UK from hairdressing to fishing, and is a great starting point for any start up business. Not only will you find lists of potential suppliers on your association website, you'll also find lots of really helpful information and contacts for your industry.
Most large manufacturing businesses don't tend to deal directly with small businesses, instead they appoint a middleman - a distributor - and they then deal with the other businesses. The distributor will handle all of the ordering, fulfilment, invoicing and payments, and most industries will have a small selection of distributors. The best way to find them is via the trade associations or via a Google search just choose your industry and add "distributor" to the search and Google will give you a list.
Going direct to the manufacturer
If you already know the products you want to sell, then sometimes it is worthwhile approaching the manufacturers directly. Most businesses with something worth selling have a website and, if they don't have a sales section on the site, or deal directly with businesses they will have details of the distributors in your region.
If your business is in manufacturing and involves some sort of processing then a good source of information is through IEM. Formerly the Industrial Exchange and Mart IEM is a huge resource for any business looking for suppliers. The site and the digital magazine lists everything from building materials through to printing and stationery and on to factory and office equipment.
One of the most useful parts of IEM is the buyers' guide which allows you to choose suppliers via category, sub-category and postcode.
If you're looking for goods to resell, either for a shop, website or as a value-add for your business then you will need to find a wholesaler. If you look at eBay there are thousands of sites all selling items like printer cartridges and batteries and mobile phone accessories etc. Nearly all of these goods will have come via a wholesaler first. Wholesalers tend to be hard to find on the internet and can be very secretive, the best way to get a wholesaler is through one of the many wholesaler directories.
The Wholesale Forums
The Wholesale Forums website is comparatively young – it launched in 2004 – but it's grown fast and now boasts a membership of 105,000 around the globe. TWF features discussion forums, networking directories and a marketplace for buyers and suppliers to trade goods and services.
The Wholesaler UK
The Wholesaler UK website has a large wholesale directory, with details on every sort of product you could want, ranging from antiques, to iPhone and mobile accessories, through to watches, and on to the very latest high-street craze.
There's no charge to access the wholesaler details. All they ask is that you mention the site when you contact the wholesaler. As well as wholesaler listings, the site also has a good directory of wholesale and trade shows – which are also ideal places for you to meet and find your perfect supplier.
The Trader Magazine
The Trader website contains listings of wholesalers around the UK in the Trader Stock Buying directory which is split into 48 categories from Auctions to £1 lines.
Like The Wholesaler UK website, all the details of wholesalers are freely accessible, and are open to everyone.
The SimplyWholesale site has details on over 150,000 products from over 1000 UK wholesalers, who can sell you just about any product you need. In the unlikely event that you can't find what you want, then SimplyWholesale also allows you to post your needs in the "Wholesale Wanted" section and the wholesalers will come to you.
There's no charge to access SimplyWholesale, however, you only receive limited access to the directories. If you want full access, it will cost you £4.99 a month – or £37 for a yearly membership.