If you're looking to subcontract your work to offshore manufacturers, the people in the middle of your trade -- the shippers -- may be the best source of leads.
Joanne Marlowe, president of DSG Inc., a $4-million Chicago company that sells weighted beach towels, already did business with mills in Brazil and Yugoslavia through U.S. agents. But what she really wanted, she told her shipper, was to save broker fees by finding offshore mills with which she could work directly. Her shipper gave her names of contacts at three manufacturers, then made introductory calls on her behalf. She followed up and eventually made the new mills her primary partners.
"When you're dealing overseas, companies are less likely to rip you off if they know you're part of the network," says Marlowe. Bottom line: between cheaper freight and elimination of agent commissions, Marlowe figures she'll save 15% to 17% on costs.