Finding trustworthy vendors and partners is key to growing your business—but it’s a challenging relationship to perfect. We asked six entrepreneurs to share their best methods.
1 / Start small.
“We ask potential vendors about their sustainability practices to make sure our values are aligned. If they are, we experiment with small-batch orders, when possible, to ensure that any wrinkles can get ironed out early without affecting the supply chain and customer experience too much. Clear communication from those earliest days is an important part of creating lasting relationships.”
—JUSTINA BLAKENEY, founder, Jungalow
2 / Build foundations.
“I take a long-term approach to all partnerships. For example, I had been talking to one technology platform for two years, and we finally closed a deal. I had established a trusting relationship with them over the years, and when it made sense for us to invest in that kind of support, I knew they were the right partner. On the flip side, there’s a great company we want to partner with, but we’re not quite big enough yet. So again, we’re building a relationship now—and when we’re big enough to do a deal with them, we’ll both feel trust.”
—KERRY BENJAMIN, founder and CEO, StackedSkincare
3 / Do your research.
“This is big for us, because manufacturing partners aren’t easy to change. We vet—and vet and vet and vet. We go to factories, we talk to other customers, and we consider the vendor’s communications during the vetting process. If they aren’t responsive while trying to win your business, they won’t be responsive once they have it.”
—ALEXANDRA FINE, cofounder and CEO, Dame Products
4 / Think like a team.
“We try to find partners that view our brand as a path for success for their own business—making sure a partnership is mutually beneficial leads to great relationships and aligned incentives. To make this relationship last, don’t hammer vendors when circumstances are out of their control, like a snowstorm that causes delays. Be flexible, and treat them like true partners rather than cogs in a machine.”
—ADAM SCHWARTZ, cofounder and CEO, TeePublic
5 / Consider values.
“At Umamicart, our mission is twofold: to celebrate Asian culture and flavors, and to support the hardworking people behind the food. As such, we work almost exclusively with immigrant-led distributors, mom-and-pop vendors, and Asian-American founders. We connect with our partners on a regular basis, and having a common underlying mission makes the relationship stand on a really solid foundation, one that’s much deeper than just a transactional interaction.”
—ANDREA XU, cofounder and CEO, Umamicart
6 / Share success.
“This can often slip through the cracks, but it’s really vital for building long-term relationships: Celebrate wins together. It’s so important to acknowledge that building a business is a team activity, and to share the successes with vendors and partners. We try to keep them posted on big financial milestones and exciting press and let them know how much we appreciate their contribution.”
—SOPHIE BAKALAR, cofounder, Fable