Our trip to China: Part 1
Joel Hanna, Co-founder, big little brush
Andrew and I arrived in Ningbo today. A couple of hours south of Shanghai on the east coast of mainland China. The locals consider Ningbo a small city, with a population of a staggering 7.6m people which is growing at around 4% per annum. Our local guide Jacky met us off our plane and took us into town (he’s a duuude!).
Tomorrow we’re headed to meet and hang out with the company that will hopefully be making our (and your) toothbrushes. We spent the day today, checking out a handful of other manufacturing facilities.
So what’s it all about, why are we here?
Since we first started working on big little brush, it’s been critical to us to build transparency into every step of our process. Not just about where our profits will go, but also where our products come from, how they’re made and even how they’re transported. Which turns out, is reasonably tricky to do.
Coming to check out this potential supplier is our own due diligence and being able to confidently, hand on heart, demonstrate the ethicality and sustainability of the products we sell, which you can’t really do unless you see it for yourself.
We have a few show stoppers that we’re hoping we don’t encounter along the way and we don’t expect. We also need to remember that China is a very different place to Australia.
And also, partnership
When you’re a product organisation, like we are, your suppliers essentially are your entire business. So in a way it’s a little self-serving to be a helpful and useful partner to your suppliers.
In order for us to have a long lasting and reliable relationship with this potential supplier, it’s important we’ve seen and understood their manufacturing process and met them face to face. In my experience it’s really hard to build that level of trust without being able to look someone in the eye.
The other component of partnership for me is about being a participant in our suppliers ‘communities’ and not just a customer or consumer of them. This doesn’t mean having a monthly morning tea together or going to their kids’ baseball games. But it does mean having a rich understanding of each other’s businesses, attitudes and approaches.
I can’t think of a better way of building transparency and partnership than actually coming here and getting involved first hand. Will write again tomorrow to after we’ve checked them out.