You don’t need to invest in production equipment to launch a business. For many entrepreneurs and small-business owners, manufacturing your own products may not be cost-effective or even feasible.
So, what are the alternatives for sourcing products?
Purchasing products from small-business wholesale suppliers is an excellent way to get your business off the ground. Here’s how to find and choose a wholesale vendor for your business, plus a few reputable choices to consider.
What are small-business wholesale suppliers?
Wholesale vendors are business-to-business (B2B) companies that supply the products that retailers sell to consumers. Typically, wholesale vendors sell their products in high volumes at a discounted rate. Businesses that buy from wholesale distributors then mark up the prices and sell them to the final customer.
Some small-business wholesale suppliers also manufacture the goods they sell, while others are only product distributors.
Wholesale vs. dropshipping
Dropshipping is a type of wholesale arrangement where your vendor also manages inventory levels, handles order fulfillment, and delivers the products to the end customer.
This differs from a traditional wholesale vendor who only sells you the products, which means you’re responsible for storing inventory, fulfilling orders, and handling customer deliveries.
Both types of sellers let you purchase products in bulk for discounted prices.
Working with dropshipping suppliers makes it easier for you to get your business started because they handle fulfillment, but it usually means your supplier will take a larger cut of the revenue due to the added work.
With dropshippers, you also have less control over things like shipping times and adding your branding to the product’s packaging.
Benefits of buying wholesale
Choosing wholesale vendors for your small business offers several benefits, including:
- Reduced product and shipping costs. Buying in bulk lowers your per-unit cost, which can increase your profit margin. Purchasing bulk orders also means you make fewer total orders, which can reduce shipping fees.
- Easier to manage. When you use wholesalers, you may only need a handful of vendors to fully stock your inventory. In contrast, small businesses that buy from individual manufacturers may need to manage 10 or more suppliers.
- Wider product selection. Wholesalers sell products from various manufacturers, giving you a wider selection than buying from one vendor.
- Scalability. If you gain more customers or open new locations, wholesalers can easily accommodate the increase in sales volume. To add new inventory, all you have to do is place another bulk order.
How to find small-business wholesale suppliers
If you’re interested in using a wholesale supplier, the next step is figuring out how to find one. Here are five ways to find wholesalers for the products you need.
- Attend trade shows. These events bring industry manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors together. It also gives you the chance to see items in person and meet people face to face.
- Use an online marketplace. Wholesale directories like SaleHoo, Thomas, and Wholesale Central list thousands of vendors that offer affordable prices and bulk orders. You can filter by product categories, shipping methods, and location to find the best vendors for you.
- Contact manufacturers. Most products contain manufacturer information. You can contact manufacturers and ask if they have a list of authorized distributors to ensure you’re working with a reliable wholesaler.
- Subscribe to trade publications. Look at the advertisement sections to find a list of active wholesalers and their current contact information.
- Check your chamber of commerce website. Some chambers may have directories that include verified suppliers.
- Ask for referrals. Contact other businesses to see if they have recommendations for reputable and reliable suppliers.
You can also review the list below to see if one could be a fit for you.
Best wholesale suppliers for small businesses
Alibaba is an online B2B marketplace based in China. It sells many types of products, ranging from apparel and beauty products to consumer electronics and commercial equipment.
While most products have a minimum order quantity (MOQ), the prices typically go down as order sizes go up. Alibaba also offers dropshipping.
What we like: You can often get the most affordable prices per unit when you place large orders.
AliExpress is Alibaba’s business-to-consumer (B2C) online store that small businesses can also use.
AliExpress offers products at reduced prices without minimum order quantities, which makes it an excellent option for getting started or for small businesses that can’t meet Alibaba’s minimum order requirements. AliExpress also offers dropshipping.
What we like: Ability to shop with no minimum order quantity.
SeeBiz is a B2B wholesale marketplace that connects U.S. buyers and sellers. It features thousands of suppliers from all over the country in various categories, such as apparel, jewelry, home decor, electronics, and more.
You can browse through their products, compare prices, and place orders directly on the platform. Moreover, SeeBiz also features a supplier directory for those looking to find specific suppliers.
Faire is the world's first online wholesale marketplace, empowering independent retailers and brands to buy and sell at wholesale terms online. With over 500,000 independent retailers and 100,000 brands from 150 different countries, Faire is the largest platform of its kind.
What we like: Faire offers 60-day payment terms for eligible retailers.
DollarDays is a US wholesaler based in Phoenix, Arizona. It sells to all types of small businesses but has a specific focus on schools, nonprofits, and other charitable organizations.
DollarDays doesn’t have a minimum order quantity, but many items are sold in cases that can’t be split. The platform also has a wish-list feature that lets organizations collect donations in the form of product orders.
What we like: Philanthropic focus and wish-list feature.
GreenDropShip is one of the leading online wholesale suppliers of high-quality products with a focus on natural, organic, and specialty items made in the US.
The platform offers dropshipping and integrates with popular ecommerce tools like Shopify, WooCommerce, Amazon, and eBay. GreenDropShip doesn’t have minimum order quantities.
What we like: Focus on natural and organic products made in the US.
Kole Imports is a US importer and wholesale distributor that sells thousands of products in categories such as apparel, beauty, home goods, hardware, and pet supplies. The website has minimum order quantities, but these are usually lower than Alibaba’s.
Kole Imports also has a Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program and ships directly to Amazon fulfillment centers.
What we like: Lower minimum order quantities and ease of use for Amazon business owners.
Your Lifestyle Business
Your Lifestyle Business is a USA-based wholesale distributor of journals, notebooks and stationary. It can ship items the same day to business owners of retail stores
What we like: Ability to shop with low minimum order quantities and the option to customize the items.
Printful is an on-demand wholesale supplier of customized clothing and accessories. Its customization includes advanced options like all-over printing and embroidery.
Printful also integrates with ecommerce platforms and enables selling through social media channels like Facebook, Spotify, and TikTok.
What we like: Easy sales channel integrations and advanced printing techniques.
Sullivans Wholesale is a wholesale distributor of on-trend home decor and floral products. It offers dropshipping services that deliver items to customers in 2-3 days.
The company has an initial minimum order value of $400, which drops to $150 for return customers. It also offers flat shipping rates based on geographic zones, which makes it easy to predict shipping costs.
What we like: Specifically curated home goods and flat shipping rates.
Tasha Apparel is a Los Angeles-based wholesale clothing supplier that sells on-trend women’s clothing, accessories, and jewelry to businesses in the US.
The website includes plus-size items and lets you buy smaller packs (under 10 items) at wholesale prices. Tasha Apparel also offers a dropshipping program for online retailers.
What we like: Fashion-forward items that you can purchase in smaller bulk orders.
WebstaurantStore is a wholesaler that provides culinary equipment, food and beverage products, and furniture for restaurants, schools, and hotels.
The online store has helpful features such as a recipe resizer and 3D table setting designer. Small businesses can also customize supplies and packaging with their own branding.
What we like: Ease of customization and tools to help small businesses choose the right products and quantities.
Tips on selecting the right wholesale vendors for your business
Finding wholesale vendors is just the first step. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to research and select the best supplier for you. Start by looking at their terms to see if they meet your business needs.
In particular, you want to know a wholesaler’s:
- Minimum order quantities
- Shipping times and prices
- Payment terms
- Return policy
Business consultant Kamyar Shah also recommends that you “request references from other businesses who have worked with the supplier and read reviews online.” This way, you can see if they have a record of timely deliveries and high-quality customer service.
Once you’ve found a supplier you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to negotiate prices or ask for sample products to be sent to you before placing a bulk order.
Chad Price, CEO of CBD and THC retailer Life Grows Green, says he “always requests samples before making a large order.” Seeing product samples lets you ensure the quality meets your standards and can make you more comfortable with ordering large quantities.
Opting for wholesale products is an excellent option for new businesses starting out or existing brands looking to scale. Finding the right wholesale supplier can also help you reduce your per-unit costs and simplify your supply chain by consolidating vendors.