The 8 Benefits of Wholesale for Makers

Lela Barker

benefits of wholesale for makers


Many of you may know the lovely and talented Jessika Hepburn of Oh My Handmade. In case you don’t: she runs a fantastic community that delivers information and support to makers and creative entrepreneurs. She’s one of my favorite people on the planet and Jess flew down from Nova Scotia earlier this month to spend a few days with me. During our time together, we were discussing why so many OMH readers have yet to explore the world of wholesale. Jessika believes that many makers equate wholesale with a loss of creativity or control, or manufacturing on a massive scale in a foreign country or selling their lovely things at teeny tiny profits. That conversation really got my wheels turning because none of that is inevitable.  Wholesale, when well-managed, doesn’t have to mean any of those things.

Wholesale doesn’t have to mean foreign factories or assembly lines cranking out thousands of cookie cutter products night + day. It doesn’t have to mean being a slave to your craft or losing touch with your inner artist. Handmade creative products lend themselves beautifully to the wholesale marketplace. Just as with retail  sales, you can limit the number of products you offer, how many you create in any given month, how you’re products are positioned and who you want to do business with. But if dealing in wholesale means selling at a discount & producing in volume, why would anyone want to wholesale? I’ve got 8 good reasons…



1.    Wholesale enables you to exercise a greater degree of control over your schedule.

When a wholesale order is placed, you know precisely what’s needed and you can map out your production time accordingly.  Which makes those “BIG” orders seem a bit less intimidating when you think about. Prepping for large craft events can take months of preparation without any guaranteed results. But when you have a wholesale order in your hot little hands, well…. Then, you have a wholesale order in your hot little hands. You know precisely what to make and in what quantity. You can put pen to paper and establish your deadline for shipment and a timeline for production, which should appeal to the control freak lurking inside many of us.


2.    Wholesale encourages you to be more efficient.

You can’t deal in volume on wholesale margins for very long if you’re not operating efficiently. When you transition into wholesale, you’ll be forced to take an objective look at your internal processes and refine them accordingly. From using technology to process orders to streamlining creative processes, wholesale business will encourage you to look at things through a different lens. That lens does NOT require you to sacrifice your creativity at the altar of money, but it will help you build a viable business that can sustain you, and other people, too, if you chose to bring on staff and build a burgeoning empire.

And lest we forget, those efficiencies have a host of benefits for your retail sales as well.


3.    Wholesale business boosts a company’s cash flow.

When stores place orders, they’re ordering from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of product at a time.  That cash infusion is often what emerging creative businesses need to kick things up to the next level.  Handsome chunks of cash will help you secure some of those services that you’ve been eyeing but couldn’t afford. Or outsource the business tasks that you particularly dread or don’t feel confident about.  I’m talking about things like: graphic design services, product photography, professional web development, and bookkeeping.  Those services hold a tremendous amount of value for creative businesses but they’re often accompanied by healthy price tags that are out of reach for many startups. The money generated from your wholesale business can bring them within your reach.  Which means you ultimately run a stronger empire devoid of all the tasks that you really didn’t like doing in the first place.


4.    Wholesale eliminates the need to keep unsold inventory in stock.

Farmer’s markets and craft shows necessitate the creation of a large volume of inventory which may or may not sell. With wholesale, you can create only what products you have orders for, eliminating the need to carry lots of inventory. Many makers believe that they need vast amounts of space to wholesale, but that’s not necessarily true. Storing unsold products, booth displays and signage consumes space and you can free that space when you move into wholesale.  You could then opt to dedicate that same space to material storage, allowing you to buy your raw materials in greater bulk, slashing costs and boosting profits.  Along those same lines…


5. Wholesale =  no more schlepping (unless you like to schlep).

No more loading up the minivan at 5am to make it to market. No more packing up everything that didn’t sell. No more standing awkwardly in a booth as you await customers or- worse- watching them pass you by at the market.

Hip, hip, hooray for that, right? But you can still attend those markets if you so desire. Lots of makers enjoy that regular interaction with their fans and customers. There’s no rule that says you can’t wholesale and still maintain your markets and fairs. Wholesale isn’t an either/or proposition. You’re still the captain of your ship, but you’re sailing the grand ocean now, instead of being stuck in that weird man-made lake-like thing in the middle of a neighborhood.


6.    Wholesale buyers purchase in volume, which increases production and enables you to buy raw materials in larger quantities at lower costs.

Wholesale sales are typically executed at 50% of retail prices, which can seem massively intimidating.  Who in their right mind wants to sell at 50% off when they can sell at a 100% margin? But that 50% figure is deceiving. When you buy your materials in volume, costs drop & profits increase. So that 50% discount isn’t a 50% discount after all.

Couple that with refined creative process and streamlined sales efforts and you should enjoy a 30-45% reduction in your product costs. Which means you’re not really selling at 50% off. Scaling your business means you can sell in volume and still clear handsome profits.


7.    Wholesale increases your exposure.

Selling retail is an uphill proposition. Anyone that’s built a website on the “build it and they will come philosophy” knows that all-too-well. The internet is one hell of a crowded marketplace and you’ll need to invest significant amounts of time to drive sales. Markets necessitate mondo-sized preparations and plenty of schlepping.

When you add a wholesale component to your business, though, end consumers will inevitably stumble upon your products in stores, even if they’ve never heard of your company. And once they’ve found you in stores, they’ll flow to your online shop as well. A huge perk of that system is that your exposure to journalists and editors increases, too, which boosts the chances of landing free editorial coverage.  My bath and beauty brand, Bella Lucce, has scored dozens and dozens of press mentions in national and international magazines, in major newspapers and on television and we’ve never paid a penny for it, nor have we employed a PR agent.  Our products are in more than 1,000 stores, increasing our exposure to end consumers and, by default, to members of the media.


8.    Wholesale allows you to tap new markets.

You can spend a fortune in Google ads and do every market under the sun and still never tap the markets that wholesale world can potentially deliver.  In fact, you never have to leave your workshop to capture new business when you work in wholesale.  You can be headquartered in Florida and sell in New York without ever crossing a state line.  If you really put your products out there, you can land them on the shelves of spas in Dubai or boutiques in London, which would inevitably necessitate an in-person visit, right? In 2006, I traveled to Kuwait and Mumbai to visit Bella Lucce retailers who still do business with us today. I had the opportunity to travel and write it off as a business expense and I literally cried upon seeing my products on the shelves of a $120million spa facility. That feeling has fueled me through seven more years in the entrepreneurial trenches.


So, there you have it. If you’ve never pondered the benefits of wholesale or weren’t sure how wholesale could boost your company, then hopefully you have some fresh food-for-thought. If you’re ready to take the leap into wholesale, then I’d love to welcome you to LBU, my personal mentoring program for new wholesalers and seasoned vets who are rethinking their wholesale game. Registration is now open and I have just 10 9 spots left.

Want to know if LBU: Secrets to Wholesale Success would be a good fit for your  business?  Reach out and drop me a line or leave a comment to this post. Let me know your website, some details about where you are now (Is your product developed? Do you wholesale? If so, how many active accounts?), where you want to go next (What are your goals for your business?) and a bit about your biggest challenges. I’ll take a peek at your products, mull it over and steer you in the right direction. I’d welcome the opportunity to connect!


About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

One response on “The 8 Benefits of Wholesale for Makers

  1. Lynne

    I already know I want to wholesale and I acquired my first wholesale account a few months ago. My products are carried in 5 out of 8 stores in one state alone and I am working on the remaining stores in that state. My goal is to be in every store one of their stores in the US, hopefully by the 5 year mark. I just find dealing with large corporations very frustrating…everything moves at a snails pace. I have created a list of additional wholesale accounts that I would like to see carry my product but my concern is the lag time I am currently experiencing with my first account and the ability to fill large orders.

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