I've been using Alibaba.com to find ceramic cup manufactures in China and other parts of Asia. The problem is, (as great of an invention as Alibaba is):
A.) most of the manufacturers I've spoken to require an absurd order quantity (10,000+ units),
B.) And worse, many of the companies I've dealt with on Alibaba say they have a product that meets my requirements, send me a sample (that I pay for) only for me to figure out that the product does NOT meet my requirements.
This has cost me a lot of money and time. I'd really appreciate any advice. I am always willing to pay for someones time if they have a lot of good information on this topic.
Note: I am looking for espresso cups coated with polymer for sublimation purposes.
Many of the large established maunfactures attend trade shows, such as the Canton Import and Export Fair. The key is to look for manufactures that already supplies to established brands. Once the manufacture meets the QA standards of the large brands, their quality remains consistent regardless of the company they produce for. Most of the time the minimum order quantity they request are up for negotiation. Same for the sampling cost. Most manufactures are willing to wave the sampling cost if a production order is placed at a later time.
Sourcing at the end of the day requires a lot of ground work. It takes time and effort to locate the right suppliers, visit and audit their facilities, and prices negotiate. However, this really saves money in the long term because you will have solid supply chains you can count on and trust. One way to approach this is to consolidate. Consolidate the number of suppliers, and make each sourcing trip count by finding multiple suppliers at once.
Best of luck in finding the right suppliers for your products!
I'm more than happy to go over this on a conference call in greater detail. I can't answer a large portion of your question, simply because I do not have the information.
So lets start from the very beginning: if 10.000 units of something relatively cheap as a commodity such as ceramic cups is an absurd number, are you sure you need to be sourcing them in the first place?
What are these cups for? Are you planning on selling them? Giving them away as a one off at a charity? Without this kind of information it is difficult to do a GAP analysis on your issue. Seriously, are you sure you even need to source these from any manufacturer and it would not be simpler to go through a centralized distributor?
If you are interested, give me a call and we can go through this in more detail. I have 12 years of sourcing experience, including from low cost countries.
Honestly, the best bet is to take a trip to China and find a manufacturer. If you go to Beijing's Silk Market you should easily find someone to connect with there. If language is a barrier you can sometimes pay someone at your hotel's front desk to accompany you after their shift. Good luck!