Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Joining a Bulk Buying Group

In today’s world, we all need to cut expenses and save money where we can. If you have your own home based craft business, this factor becomes even more important. The key is to cut costs without sacrificing quality. One of the best ways I have found to do this is to join bulk buying groups.

Many hand crafters work out of their homes, providing quality products to the public. A large percentage of these people are employed full time outside the home so this is done in their spare time. Because of this, many are not what most would term as a “legitimate” business; they don’t have a brick and mortar store and they are not fortunate enough to have the business permits and licenses their state may offer. This in no way means they are not a legitimate business, it just means they do not have access to the advantages these permits would give them.

One of the biggest advantages of having such permits is the wholesale buying power it gives the home based crafter. Most wholesale suppliers require two things, a business license or a tax permit and a large minimum order. So, not only do most home crafters not have the necessary permits to get the best deals they don’t have the need for the huge amount of product they must buy to get that terrific, wholesale discount. Even if they do have the permits needed, they just don’t need or have the resources necessary to make large wholesale purchases.

This is where the bulk buying groups come in.

First, let’s get the definition of a bulk buying group. Simply put, this is a group of people that pull their resources to buy in bulk which guarantees all participating members the huge discounts earned by purchasing wholesale. If you were purchasing food or agricultural items, it would probably be called a co-op. No matter which term you use both can be defined as a group of people working together for the benefit of the entire group.

There are numerous bulk buying groups out there and you can find them for just about any type of craft you may do; everything from jewelry, to soap and toiletries, to fabric. And while they may operate differently, they all have one goal in common; saving money. The best place to find bulk buying groups is on the internet and my preference for these groups is Yahoo Groups.

I personally operate a large bulk buying group that boasts over 1,600 members. Nancy’s Bulk Buys caters to the jewelry maker. But there are other bulk buy groups for soap, gemstones and other things on Yahoo Groups.

The bulk buy is really a simple process. There is a dedicated buy hostess for various product buys. Each hostess has a proven track record for successful buys and all bulk buy groups usually have a set of dedicated hostesses that have been doing buys for a long time. I have now been conducting bulk buys for over 5 years. We will never get rich doing this since hostesses only make enough money to cover their expenses. However, they are able to purchase their supplies at wholesale which makes all the hard work worth it.

The group owner has all the personal contact information for the hostess, so that she/he can remain in contact with hostess at all times during the buy. All orders and monies are collected by the buy hostess. She then tallies the orders and places one large order with the vendor. A buy hostess must be registered with their state as a business so that they are able to qualify for wholesale pricing. Finally the order is shipped to the hostess where she sorts and mails the product to each individual buyer.

Most bulk buy rules and procedures are usually the same for each buy held, but there could be some variation depending on the product and the vendor they are using. These rules are always posted in the group’s files section along with updates for the orders. This procedure keeps the buy participants informed of how close the group is to making the minimum purchase for the maximum discount. They are also able to verify that their order is logged and it is correct.

When participating in a bulk buy, it does take considerably longer to receive the goods due to the time allowance given for placing an order, which is usually 1-2 weeks. Then another week for the hostess to compile the orders and verify all money has been paid. It takes approximately a week for shipping from the company to the buy hostess then another week for the packages to be processed and shipped to the individual buyers. In most cases a buy will take at least a month for you to receive the product unless it is a very quick 2-3 day buy.

I strongly urge you to research a buying group and the hostess before purchasing through a bulk buy. As with anything else, there can be issues with a buy being run correctly. Usually that does not happen, but there is always the possibility. And lets face it, life does happen so things could always get a little crazy.

A good bulk buying group should follow most, if not all of the above procedures.

Some suggestions for joining the right bulk buy group:

• Research the buy groups. Look for length of time the group has been around, number of members, and activity level.

• Join the group then sit back and watch for a while before you participate. It will not take long to get a feel for the group and the hostess.

• If you know people in the group, by all means, get recommendations on the best hostesses.

• Look through the group’s message archives. This is a great way to find past problems that may have occurred as well as giving you a general feel for the tone of the group; are they always fighting or is there a lot of useful information coming from the group?

• Always familiarize yourself with the rules of the group as well as the rules for each individual buy. There are necessary steps you must take as a buy participant and if they are not followed correctly, it could cause you to lose out on a great deal.

I think if you follow these suggestions you will find a bulk buying group that works for you. You will have fun and save money in the process.

Like with many of the bulk buy groups, on Nancy’s Bulk Buys we discuss a lot of things other than buying products. We get into the fundamentals of jewelry making as well as the ups and downs that go with our chosen craft.

I not only own a bulk buy group, I also own a large, wire wrapping group that has 4 sister groups and a silver smith group. All of these groups have wonderful members and archives full of wonderful information. If you are just starting in the craft of jewelry, any of my groups would be a great place for you to learn and grow. If you are an experienced jewelry crafter, then these groups will further expand your knowledge as well as being a place to discuss the problems that face jewelry artists.

If you would like to learn more about my groups, just follow any of the links below:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NancysBulkBuys
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Wire_Wrap_Jewelry
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WWJSilversmithing