Manufacturing · Business Development

Is it possible to build a customer base before getting a company off the ground?

Matt Zuern Freelancer at Matthew Zuern Graphic Design

August 10th, 2015

I've been in manufacturing for a while now and I've seen others venture out on their own and have taken customers from their old employers.  That's not what I'm doing,  I was just wondering is there a way to get contracts in manufacturing, before getting all the equipment necessary?
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John Seiffer Business Advisor to growing companies

August 10th, 2015

Yes it's possible but it's a lot more risk for the customer. So think about what makes it worth them taking that risk? Usually it's because you have some amazing invention or capacity that they want so badly they're willing to take the risk.

Phil MBA Strategic Global Group

August 10th, 2015

Matt
It depends on what you are manufacturing to how difficult its going to be. You don't say. Manufacturing can be a highly leveraged capital intense business. You will need steady revenue to offset such expense.
Case in point, I have two colleagues that manufacturer for different clients. One is a machine shop that serves the Semiconductor industry. This is small specialized products that apply to older semi technology, but are very lucrative in revenue as competing with the OEM's is easier.
The other is a machine shop that deals with high end, fortune 500 companies such as GE and Rolls Royce. Contracts for this person came from his time at GE, and they were willing to have him supply as he was supplying capacity, cycle time and cost, his value added or competitive advantage. Two very different markets, but both highly leveraged.
What are you offering your industry clients that they don't already have from their existing suppliers? Whats your added value? Whats your competition? These are some of the basics you will have to overcome, apart from the startup costs.

Marvin Schuldiner Problem Solver at Sanns, LLC

August 10th, 2015

Sure. That's the basis for many crowdfunding projects. You get clients to pre-pay for products that are not fully developed. In fact, the money often goes towards development work.

Jackson Powell UI/UX Designer & Front End Developer

August 10th, 2015

Hi there Mr. Zuern,

I'd check out these two online 3D printing platforms and consumer equipment. They might help you as you figure out your business model. Astroprint and New Matter.

Matt Zuern Freelancer at Matthew Zuern Graphic Design

August 10th, 2015

I'm trying to get into 3D printing.  The market isn't saturated yet, and I can do the modeling.  There is no business like it in my area, so I would like to take advantage and   Jeff, I can't see your reply, could you post it again?

Jackson Powell UI/UX Designer & Front End Developer

August 10th, 2015

I'd also suggest you talk to Lonnie Sciambi, The Entrepreneur's Yoda. He's a mentor that is embarking on a product development cycle by offering to answer questions from startup entrepreneur's like yourself for free.

Matt Zuern Freelancer at Matthew Zuern Graphic Design

August 11th, 2015

Thank you for all the advice.  I had thought of outsourcing and I'm glad someone mentioned it.  I don't know if I'm allowed to ask this, but if anyone knows more about this please contact me.

Kristian Anketell Business Builder | Currently Constructing Big Tipping & Collective Avenue

August 10th, 2015

To try and answer the question, I think yes. As I was having a web based business built I created a facebook page (cringe) and started visiting pages of people I thought would be early adopters, letting them know of what was coming up. By the time the website was ready to take members I had a few thousand 'likers' on fb. This meant that within the first month from launch, the business was profitable, a huge relief (yes, relief) for me, as it removed the 'how much will come out of my wallet to keep this business alive' stress.

What I would suggest Mark, is for you to do a customer profile, for your top three early adopter 'types', and then find them and let them know about what you are doing.

This will also answer the question of 'is the market interested in my product?', which is a huge win to get too.

Hope that helps mate.

Jeffrey Gray Founder and CEO at Brave Enterprises, LLC

August 10th, 2015

Matt,

Reme Pullicar Project | Program | IT Manager

August 10th, 2015

Matt, in a word.. outsource. You do the designs. You charge for the design and calculate a minimal margin for production and then send it to one of the big 3D production companies to produce. Simple. Once you begin developing your independent track record, leverage your experience and a big job to purchase or lease the equipment you need. The fact is, you can find Additive 3D options as low as $1k. So if you have the marketing skills to back up your design skills, you should do well.