18 Resources to Find a Manufacturer for Your Product Online


Back in the day, when it was time to find a manufacturer for your product, finding the information and contacts you  needed was a challenge. Nowadays, in our interconnected online world, there’s a wealth of information available. You just need to know where to look. To help you get a jump-start on your search, we’ve gathered the best online resources for you to find a manufacturer for your product.

Before you start making phone calls however, you should take the time to do the preliminary work needed to answer the questions prospective manufacturers are going to ask. This work includes: designing your product, building a prototype to shake out all the kinks and prove your product works as designed, and protecting your idea by getting the patent process underway. You’ll find resources for all these steps below.

Ready? Let’s roll up our sleeves and begin.

Online Resources for Designing Your Product

The first step is to design your product. While it’s likely you’ve already done this when you thought up the idea, it helps to get professional input so your product is what you envision while also being easy, or at least feasible, for a manufacturer to produce.

Enter the industrial designers. These folks are pros at helping you design your product so it both matches your vision and meets manufacturing standards. What’s more, they can provide design drawings and documentation, both of which will be useful when it’s time to find a manufacturer.

Use these online resources to find the industrial designer who’s right for you:

Core77 Design Firm Directory

Created in cooperation with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Core77 Design Firm Directory is a great place to start your search for an industrial designer and other professionals who can help prepare your product for manufacture.

The site lets you search by type of professional, location and even budget — a critical concern for small businesses.

find a manufacturer for your product

The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA)

The IDSA provides a directory of members broken down by state (and sometimes city). Unlike Core77’s search, it’s more difficult to quickly focus in on exactly the type of resource you need. That said, you will find plenty of industrial designer listings here.

find a manufacturer for your product

Elance

Elance is a well-known online marketplace for hiring freelance professionals. They have a section devoted to product design and CAD freelancers, complete with past project reviews and other useful information.

find a manufacturer for your product

Online Resources for Creating a Prototype

Next it’s time to go from paper to reality by building a prototype. This is sometimes called, “proof of concept” because you’re essentially validating that your design can be produced and that it looks and operates as designed.

If the design doesn’t pan out, you need to head back to the drawing board for some redesign. It may be frustrating, but this step can save the time and effort of revising your patent application later.

Use these online resources to find the prototype creating pros.

ThomasNet

Though ThomasNet is best known for its online US manufacturer listings (we’ll talk about them again when it’s time to find a manufacturer for your product below), they also provide listings for other types of services, one being prototype creation. Head on over and look for this preliminary search to get you started.

JobShop.com

JobShop.com is another directory that will be discussed below. However, like ThomasNet, they also list folks who produce prototypes.

find a manufacturer for your product

IndustryNet

Finally, our third resource for prototype producers is IndustryNet. As with the previous two resources, this site includes many types of suppliers including a handy selection of  prototyping professionals.

Online Resources for Patenting Your Product

Once you have a well-documented design and a working prototype, it’s time to apply for a patent. Having either a “Patent Pending” or “Patent Applied For” label in the documentation you send to manufacturers makes it much harder for another company to steal ownership of your idea. The patent office already has your proof of ownership in your patent application.

Use these online resources to apply for your patent:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

The USPTO is where all the patent action goes down. The site is a veritable goldmine of information, making it the perfect resource for any questions you may have. If you’re preparing your own patent application, you’ll also find information on how to do so as well as the form you’ll need to use.

The United States Patent and Trademark Offices Patent Attorney/Agent Search

Preparing a patent application on your own can be a daunting task. So it may be  time to have someone else dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s. For just that reason, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides a handy search tool for finding a licensed patent attorney or agent near you.

Online Resources to Find a Manufacturer for Your Product

Now that you have a well-designed, patent-pending prototype, it’s time to look at online manufacturer resources. This is the moment we’ve been working towards so let’s get started.

Online Resources to Find A Manufacturer for Your Product – North America

ThomasNet

As noted above, ThomasNet is the ultimate “product sourcing and supplier discovery platform”. With almost 5,000 manufacturer listings, you’re bound to discover one that can produce your product.

find a manufacturer for your product

Did we mention that it’s free?

Maker’s Row

Claiming to offer, “factory sourcing made easy”, Maker’s Row is an attractive site and powerful under the hood. There are lots of ways to search for manufacturers on this site, though using the system does require a free registration. For more advanced features, a monthly fee is required.

find a manufacturer for your product

IndustryNet

IndustryNet provides listings for many service categories above and beyond the previously noted prototype makers. From manufacturers to consultants and software providers, you’ll find enough links to keep you busy for a while.

find a manufacturer for your product

JobShop.com

Last but not least in our list of North American manufacturer resources, JobShop.com offers over 400 product and service categories to search. Unlike IndustryNet, there are less non-manufacturing listings, such as the prototype categories noted earlier. But sometimes less is more when you need to focus in and find a manufacturer for your product.

Online Resources to Find A Manufacturer for Your Product – Beyond North America

Whether it’s because of unit cost, production capacity or speed to market, you’re more likely to find a manufacturer for your product more quickly if you broaden your search beyond North America.

At first glance it may look like some of the sites in this section offer only finished products for sale. However, dig a bit deeper and you’ll find that many of the listed exporters also make products for small businesses like yours. That said, you’ll also find straight-up manufacturer directories here as well.

Alibaba

One of the most well known resources in this list, Alibaba is a site on which you can spend a lot of time. With thousands of listings in hundreds of categories, finding a manufacturer for your product won’t be a snap, but you can definitely do it here.

find a manufacturer for your product

MFG.com

MFG.com is one of the easiest-to-use resources included in this list. You’ll find straightforward categorization of over a hundred manufacturing disciplines on this site and listings that include manufacturers from almost every country in the world.

find a manufacturer for your product

Bizbilla

Bizbilla offers a broad range of listings ranging from manufacturers to wholesalers, agents and more. There’s also a product tab that can be used to find manufacturers as well.

find a manufacturer for your product

Global Sources

While it looks like they list only end products available for export, Global Sources does contain tons of manufacturer listings. It might take a bit of digging, but the results may well be worth the hunt.

HKTDC

Focusing exclusively on Hong Kong, China and Taiwan based companies, HKTDC offers not only manufacturer listings but many other types of service listings as well. One tip: to focus in on manufacturers, choose a product category and then in the right column of the category page, click on the “Manufacturer” box under the “Business Type” header.

find a manufacturer for your product

Think Outside of the Box

Quirky

Finally, if you want to skip the manufacturer search altogether, then check out Quirky. They’ve set up a unique system where you can submit product ideas and the ones that get the most votes (and meet their specifications) get designed, produced and sold on their site.

Now that’s a great idea.

find a manufacturer for your product

Manufacturing a product of your own can be a challenge, especially if it’s something you’ve never tried before with your business. Hopefully, this list of resources will make it easier to bring your concept to life for your customers.

Manufacturing Photo via Shutterstock

20 Comments ▼

Matt Mansfield


Matt Mansfield Matt Mansfield is the Tech Editor and SEO Specialist at Small Business Trends where he is responsible for directing and writing many of the site’s product reviews, technology how-to’s, and lists of small business resources as well as increasing the reach of our content.

20 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    Thank you. It’s nice to see a directory of directories of small business suppliers or manufacturers. Since businesses are rarely operated by a one-man team, you always need other people for the other processes of your business.

  2. Martin Lindeskog

    Matt: I used Hong Kong Trade Council’s different trade catalogs back in the day, I imported 3.5″ floppy disks.

    Quirky site sounds like a fascinating idea! I have to check it out. Could you share some business cases?

  3. Awesome list here Matt, thanks for sharing! This is perfect because another way to use this list is if you have a B2B business and you need leads! Perfect opportunity to reach out to these people in the list and offer your services/product. Great job!

  4. Great to see so many resources listed, but you missed one! Utelier is an online platform that connects fashion designers and manufacturers (and even experts) worldwide.

    If you have any questions you can email me [email protected] or find us on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn!

    Thanks.

  5. Hi Matt,

    Thank you for these great resouces. I am an Inventor an new start up company who is looking to License my first product. It is called The FishCaller (a fishing product) which attaches to any fishing pole and uses sonic vibrations (specific resonant frequency) to attract fish to your bait. It is currently on Kickstarter right now. I will soon be featured on NewsWatch30 on the Discovery Channel which will help promote and fund the product. Do you have any listings of companies who are looking to license products such as this?

    Thank you,

    Ken Clark

  6. Thank you Matt for this compiled info.
    Exactly what i was looking for online.
    We have a consumer product prototype and are now looking for a manufacturing company / partner… thank you for giving us starting point for this search.

    Thank you!
    Rosalie

  7. Thank you Matt. Your post is helpful and informative.

    Many people have great ideas of new product.But they might do not know what the next? Below are some of my opinion for your reference.

    I have been in plastic injection molding and tooling for more than 6 years. From my experience,when you come up with some new projects, you need to know:

    1, What are they made of?
    Usually, different materials are made by different processing. For example, when your new project is a metal part, you should not find a plastic manufacturer.

    2,Do you know what the processing it should be?

    If it is made of metal, do you know what the processing it should be? If not sure, do you have samples or prototypes available? All manufacturers custom make parts as per samples or prototypes or 3D drawings. If you have more than one samples/protoypes available, you can send one to the manufacturer to know whether it is in their field.For us, if it is not within our capabilities, we can usually help to transfer the sample/prototype to other factories as per the customer’s request. Metals are usually made by die casting(it is also called metal injection molding or MIM), stamping, or extruding.
    If it is made of plastic, they can usually be made by plastic injection molding, blow molding, rotocasting, extruding, rotational molding,etc. Also, plastic injection molding is the widest used method. For which processing, it depends on the design or constructure of the part. If you are not sure, come to us for help.

    3,What should you prepare?

    Money,of course. *_* Then a prototype or sample or 3D design drawings.To make prototypes, you can find a local rapid prototyping company to do it. If just need to be similar to an existing product, you can get a similar sample from existing market, and tell the manufacture where you need modifications. If it is not new, just need to copy, you can easily get a sample. To make 3D design drawing, one of my customers, I heard that he finds a university engineering major student to create the first 3D. And then send to the manufacturer, the manufacturer must know where should be modified, as the student might not know knowledges in manufacturing.

    For any assistance, you can get in touch with me: sales01(at)rpimoulding Vicky Liu from Respon Plastic Industrial Co., Ltd. in Xiamen,China

  8. Hi sir, i’m a newbie in this field. I wanted to create lipsticks, but well since i’m not really a big budget person, what would you say is the least budget to manufacture lipstick products, say i based my manufacturer in China. Thanks and looking forward for your reply!

    • Write up a one or two page RFQ. (Request for Quote) This should include all the specific details of what you need, what type, color, size, volume, how you want the goods packaged, shipped, Terms, etc. This is what the manufacturers will use to see if they can make what you need, and at what price.
      Search Alibaba for existing lipstick manufacturers. Avoid any supplier that hasn’t been a gold supplier for at least 3 years. This leverages time to help vet suppliers since you are new and probably don’t know how to vet them. Contact them and attach your RFQ with just a brief note in the message box.

      My advice is that you want a supplier that is willing to private label their existing line. So you do not have to go through the long and expensive process of creating your own colors, container, packaging, etc. Do that later. Start with “Lean Startup”. Ask for a sample of each color you are interested in. Normally this is pretty cheap if not free as long as you pay for the shipping. Which will be $50 or so. Ask them to use their shipping account and you just pay them vs using your own account. Way cheaper.

      I am a manufacturing consultant that specializes in supplier selection and manufacturing for cost savings.

  9. Excellent article Matt. Thanks for posting it. We’ve been helping people manufacture in China for the past 20 years and are still amazed at all of the resources available to people to bring their product ideas to fruition. I’ve bookmarked your site for passing on to others. Thanks again.

  10. Good informations.
    Just check their honesty before you pay.
    Check their export records or ask for customer references.
    We do custom plastic injection molding in Xiamen, China. Both tooling and mass production. No MOQ

    Best regards,
    Vicky sales01(a t) rpimoulding[ d ot]com

  11. Hi, i need a manufacturer to assist me with the items i need created. I am a south african and want to be in touch with textiles manufacturers. Thank you.

  12. Question:

    How well does Alibaba support its customers, regarding patent rights and product development. Do they ensure that patent rights are protected for patents issued here in the US?

  13. Joseph partott sr.

    I own a US patent. I’m seeking a licensing deal. it is a device that sharpens a lawnmower blade without removing the blade from the equipment . Thanks

  14. My brother has recently invented a neat product, but I think that him being able to find a acrylic fabrication service in our area would be helpful. He’s gotten through the design process already so I think that he said the next step would be finding a acrylic fabrication shop that could build some prototypes for him. I’m going to have to see if we can use some of the online resources you talked about to find a prototype maker and maybe a acrylic fabrication shop!

    • Depending on the size.. dental labs are good at fabricating acrylic pieces. Just a thought 😕 may God bless you guys on uour journey

  15. I have recently completed the concept for a social game I have developed…something I think will fit perfectly for the time we live in. It requires a manufacturer of products that can be worn and eaten (not a sex game in any way, shape or form). Any suggestions?

  16. great article and tool to start some research! I work for a company called Madfastmfg.com, We help small business in every part of getting a product to manufacturing. If you have some time Matt or anyone else looking for some help, please check us out!

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