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How Do I Become a Textile Supplier?

Silk, a type of textile.
Woven from plant fibers, jute is a traditional upholstery webbing that is in high demand.
Becoming a textile importer or exporter is one way to become a textile supplier.
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  • Written By: V. Cassiopia
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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The quickest, if not easiest, way for a person to become a textile supplier is by starting a company whose main purpose is to supply textiles. The company can be focused on one or more areas of the textile supply chain, which begins in the manufacturing area and ends in the distributor, trading, or supplier area. You can start a large or small textile supply business in any of these areas. For example, you can start manufacturing textiles as a small business startup, such as by doing screen printing. You can then become a vendor, or supplier, by distributing your own products directly to stores or other buyers.

In the U.S., you can contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) to obtain startup advice and possible financial assistance for a small company. Businesses that combine manufacturing and supply on a larger scale, requiring large investments for capital expenditures, need to obtain funding from sources such as “angel” investors or venture capital firms.

While smaller manufacturers tend to combine textile manufacturing and supplier functions, selling directly to buyers, larger manufacturers tend to use a manufacturer’s agent as a go-between. The textile broker is one such manufacturer’s agent; this person owns no inventory and works on commission by finding buyers for specific clients. In contrast, as a textile supplier, you would own your own fabric inventory and set your own prices.

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A person who wants to become a textile supplier and be successful at it needs to understand the characteristics of natural and synthetic fibers, yarns, and fabrics. This is especially important now that environmental concerns have begun to influence the textile market, and cotton, linen (flax), wool, bamboo, jute and other natural fibers have a high consumer demand. You can acquire textile knowledge by formal education, by internship training, or by working within the industry in some way, such as in a fabric store.

A textile supplier also has to have fabric to supply or be able to get it, and also has to be able to find clients who want it. This means he has to know both people who make fabrics and those who use them — and the need for a fabric supply isn't limited to your local craft store. Clothing companies have an obvious demand for fabric. Automakers also need fabric, albeit usually a different type. A textile supplier has to decide if he's going to supply all types of fabrics or limit his inventory to suit a particular industry.

Another way to become a textile supplier is to become a textile importer or exporter. This requires that you have the same basic knowledge of textiles, as well as math and communication skills. A textile importer or exporter needs to have a thorough knowledge of tariffs and import/export laws. Once you become a textile supplier, you can work with an importer or exporter to obtain fabrics manufactured overseas for sale locally, or you can focus on supplying regional or national fabrics to customers at home and abroad.

Regardless of the path you choose in deciding to become a textile supplier, you will need to have or acquire a solid understanding of cost/expense ratios and be able to calculate your profit margins. This will allow you to establish competitive product pricing and help you in starting and developing a textile supply business.

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