SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT   |   4 minute read

Here is what nobody is telling you about distribution and operations

If you are a Maker, you are passionate about crafting and manufacturing. But we’re pretty sure that you are not as passionate about distribution, imports and exports, inventory, invoicing and all sales aspects.  Well, today you are lucky - this article will make your life easier and provide you with all the necessary knowledge and resources to get things going.

All the technology advancements from 3D printing to Internet of Things, RaspberryPi and Arduino have enabled you to craft like never before. We are experiencing the rise of the Makers in all forms from hardware startup founders to 3D designers, and we salute you!

QuickBooks Commerce wants to help you focus on what you love, on crafting, and is here to support you with all things distribution, inventory, invoicing and sales. This article is aimed to be a valuable playbook for you on those areas. And keep on reading to discover our special offer for Makers.

Distribution channels

Here they are, from most popular to least known:

1. Crowdfunding platforms

We know you already know and love this channel because it gives you the money to start the production and proves that you do have a market. All those customers vetting on your concept with their wallets - what can be better than this?

The biggest names of such platforms are KickStarter and Indiegogo. In 2013 alone, 3 million people pledged $480 million to KickStarter projects. It’s madness.

A great concept, a very good presentation, and lots of word of mouth can help you achieve your first milestone: reaching or even exceeding the funding goal. We leave that up to you to spread the love and make people pay upfront for the wonders you will build.

But keep in mind that all that cash means a big demand and you need to make it happen. Welcome to the life after crowdfunding and your challenge no. 2: operations. More in-depth on this further in the article, for now we still focus on sales channels - because you should want more customers after the crowdfunding campaign ends.

2. Your own online shop

Unless you are also a web dev geek and build your own online shop, there is quite a variety of platforms out there to help you build one with no technical knowledge.

The most simple to use if you are not a techie are:
- Shopify (an easy to customize online shop)
- WooCommerce (basically wordpress themes for ecommerce)

And here is a tip if you go for these platforms to build your online shop: they are usually easy to integrate with other platforms that handle inventory and payments. That will save a lot of time for you.



They can range from bloggers selling your products on a resellers program, to regular distributors and up to established ecommerce players that accept merchants.

Perhaps you thought already of selling on Amazon or alike. But here is something less common knowledge: there are three ways to do sell on other online shops:

One way is to sell your products to the said reputable online shop. You would be their supplier and they would act as a distributor of your products. It is less risk for you because you sell products in bulk, but you better have some very in demand products to sell in order to get a good deal.

The second way is to sell on consignment agreements. Basically, it means that you place your stocks in the hands of the ecommerce, but you remain owner until the products are sold. The online shop can even return back to you any unsold stocks. So they help you with access to the market, but all the risk of selling is yours. We wrote at length about how to make the most of your consignment stock here.

The third way is called dropshipping or marketplace. This is the case in which you remain owner of the stock to be sold over the online shop. It doesn’t even reach their warehouses, you have to store it. They help you with reaching out to the market, eventually with support, but you handle the inventory, sell piece by piece and take care of the shipment.

Inventory management

There is a good thing to be a Maker nowadays. There are so many solutions for you to use to handle your operations. And the best part is that most of them can be integrated and synced.

An inventory management solution enables you to avoid sudden out of stock situations when a sale is already ordered because it constantly synchronizes your online sales or b2b orders with your stock levels and alerts you when you have to supply new products in your stock.

In case you build something out of parts or you use composite materials, an online inventory management software can help with putting things in order, knowing always how much you need of each material to make and sell a product, and how your materials and pieces are decreased when you make a new product sale.

It basically gives you full control, useful reports and prevents data from having human errors. And, as we mentioned, it integrates your sales data with the inventory stocks, invoices and shipments.

Disclaimer: As we are from QuickBooks Commerce, we cannot not brag with our solution and integrations. We offer online inventory management software, in perfect sync with Shopify and WooCommerce for online sales, Xero for accounting, and ShipStation for shipping.

And here is the bonus: We will provide mentorship on operations to all Makers that use QuickBooks Commerce! We’ve been dealing with experienced manufacturers and distributors and we would be delighted to share our gained knowledge with you to get you going.

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