This is a quick overview of the new platform that I am designing based off the back of a perceived need for a UK Textiles Manufacturing Directory. Hence the name UKTMD!
This blog will look at: The idea, specifically the reason why the idea was had and the research behind why I think that it warrants further investigation. The platform, it’s purpose, it’s design and then how I actually made it. How it is currently going as of 2 weeks and finally the potential if any.
Before we start, it’s important to say that this platform is one of my many covid projects and it was launched after only a weeks worth of planning and work. This means that the emotional attachment to it is low and if it does not look as though it is going to work out (the market does not want it) then I don’t plan on putting much time or effort into it. It’s better to figure out that it isn’t going to work than to waste time and resources on it.
Having operated in the UK textiles industry for 4 years, having sold B2B & B2C, and having used a variety of suppliers around the country, I have connections all over the UK textiles industry both through the business relationships I have due to operating in garment manufacturing and due to my profile on linkedin that has connected me with 100+ individuals in the industry. The connections I have result in a lot of conversations both casual and commercial regarding the state of the industry and it’s future. These conversations have lead to the idea creating some sort of community and directory that this project was born.
Myself and others (all those connections I just name dropped to sound important) generally believe that there is a problem with representation within the industry. Made in UK is a topic that is constantly discussed, however if you wanted to get something made in the UK, who do you actually speak to in order to get it made??? There's a whole lot of talk but not much action and whilst I see a lot of demand, that doesn’t translate to supply that often. Below are a few of those reasons that I believe we aren't seeing much action.
Firstly, it is very hard to find the right supplier! This was something that I experienced at the beginning of career in textiles, I wanted to get everything made in the UK due to minimums, lead times and I wanted to buy UK, however it was actually really hard to find a supplier that could do this! I took days of googling and checking companies house register to find a supplier that could do the job and even then it was very hard to get in contact as they had no website and the phone number was hidden. This is not an isolated case, because I hear of companies like this going out of business due to lack of sales and it’s really no surprise seeing as though I was a legitimate buyer and couldn’t find them! These companies are usually gold dust because they are just so hard to find. On another note, I went out for a cycle the other day and found a silk mill 10 miles away from me that I never knew was there! These types of industry are dotted all around the country and you would never know they’re there.
There is a lot of confusion from outside of the industry (and sometimes within it) because the textiles industry is quite complicated. For example there are a lot of specific stitch types and fabrics etc which makes it quite hard to work out what’s needed, this often ends up in enquires being sent to the wrong place.
Vague buyer requests are something that I get all the time. A lot of enquires that come through aren’t particularly well thought out and buyers assume that manufacturers will drop everything to get the sale. As manufacturers we like to have orders that are well thought out and of a larger size so that we can do what we do well (manufacture products) rather than tell you how to create the product and how to market it. This happens all the time, I wish I could show you some of the emails that I get. One even said, ‘I want to start a company, can you make clothing?’. Good for you and yes we do, is this going anywhere? (It didn’t).
Taking the above problems into consideration, what I believe is needed is a solution that offers equal representation online for all of the UK’s textiles industry that promotes and showcases the industry we have here and qualifies leads before sending them on to the relevant business.
The best way that I think this can be achieved is to create an online platform.
The platform is a location based directory where suppliers can sign up to create their own profile. These profiles will allow them to add images, showcase their services and add search criteria so that they can be found.
A potential buyer can search for a specific criteria on the main page for example; garment manufacturer, fabric, yarn etc or search all to find these supplier profiles.
If a potential buyer find and likes the profile they can either go through to the website or submit an enquiry through the contact form.
The contact form (shown to the left) is structured so that it asks important questions to qualify the lead and give more information rather than create a vague question that we suppliers hate!
This style of platform draws comparison to Alibaba, however whilst the search function is very similar we will not be looking to host payments through the website. Once you have payments involved the legal aspects such as insurance and liability come into play. There is no real need to host this so at the moment I would like to keep it as a directory.
I decided that this would be free for a while to get people to sign up to it. No one wants to pay for something unproven. Once I had proven that the solution worked then I could think about monetizing.
Promotion of the platform
The platform will essentially be useless to everyone if no one knows that it exists so the marketing of this platform is very important. The plan will be to use Social Media and Search Marketing to get the platform in front of the right people so that we will be the first port of call when anyone is considering buying form the UK.
Creation of the platform
The platform is quite easy to build. I had built something similar in the past so I knew what I was doing. I was able to get my hands on a template that was part of the way there. Once I fully understood the capabilities of the template I was able to build the solution within those parameters. There were numerous instances where I had to write code to get the specific outcomes that I wanted, but that was fairly easy as I knew what was needed and how to do it all.
Where I am right now as I write this
Right now the platform has been live for two weeks, there are 40 users signed up which is great and I am reaching out to more as we speak to get as many sign ups as I can. I would have liked more interest in the platform however it is all down to market requirements so if it is as needed as I thought then that’s with the market.
What does success look like?
Success for this venture would be: being the go to platform for UK textiles manufacturing where both buyers and suppliers meet in order to discuss business.
The key measurables for success are the amount of suppliers that have signed up and the amount of enquiries that are coming through.
How it’s going & the future
This is all subject to how well it performs, but there are a few other things that could be added to make this a one stop shop for the textiles industry. At the moment the features under consideration are:
To function more like a community where buyers and sellers can meet and talk to each other
A built in advisory service.
Vendor Relationship Management service where buyers can put out tenders for work.
I hope this is all understandable and I just wanted to put this together to show people how quickly something can be planned out and made.
I hope this all make sense and give an outline on how a project can be had, created and objectively reviewed in a short space of time.
If you have any questions at all please do get in touch.