How to find the right supplier for your business

This episode of Shopify Masters is part of our collaborative series with the Learn with Shopify YouTube channel. Over the next few months, we’ll release a bonus Shopify Masters podcast each week, focused on specific tips and trends for entrepreneurs.

Finding the right supplier for your small business isn’t easy.

But if you ask Dan Demsky, the co-founder and CEO of Unbound Merino, taking the time to create a personal connection with the manufacturers of his wool clothing has been key to his success.

“When we were scaling and we couldn’t afford our own growth, we were telling [our suppliers] about that, and they extended a line of credit to us so that they could help us,” Demsky said. “We have a relationship with our suppliers that’s really deep.”

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Demsky became so close with his suppliers that he even was invited to a family wedding halfway across the world. 

“It was up in rural China,” he said. “We went to their epic wedding and they loved having us. We’re really close with them and talk all the time.”

Demsky’s company, Unbound Merino, makes apparel out of merino wool. It’s a lightweight, natural fiber that Demsky said is the perfect material for avid travelers, fit for a day of hiking that transitions to evening cocktails at a trendy bar. 

The only problem, Demsky said, was that he couldn’t find merino wool clothing designed with the versatility he was looking for. So he began his search for the right production partner. 

“I went through Alibaba and I searched for everyone that appeared to be able to make merino wool,” Demsky said. “And I just opened tab after tab of different suppliers, I had hundreds of tabs open.” 

For Demsky, it wasn’t enough to have samples sent to his home or to chat with potential partners online. He wanted to see things in-person.

“You hear horror stories about children working in factories, which in our case is completely untrue,” he said. “We needed to be able to know where we were manufacturing was ethical so that we could go to sleep at night.” 

Demsky’s trips to Asia visiting factories proved to be foundational in Unbound Merino’s success in becoming a 7-figure business. Demsky and his suppliers troubleshot logistical problems during the height of the pandemic. Instead of production delays, Demsky said, he and his suppliers utilized deadstock fabric to create limited edition pieces that kept the business running.

“We were buying up material that was just sitting in factories and had all these great new things to talk about with our customers,” Demsky said. “We had limited edition colors or [a limited] amount of pieces. Things sold out within two days, and it was like a little event.” 

To hear more about how Unbound Merino’s team found the right suppliers, ran successful crowdfunding campaigns, and other tips for your business, take a listen to Demsky’s full interview as part of our Learn with Shopify series.