The MIDDLE Men

 

Most of the time when brands or designers are working with factorys, 80% of the time they are not dealing with the factory directly. They are working with what we call a trading company a.k.a agents. I really hate when people getting into the business say “I don’t want to deal with an agent” “I want to cut the middle man out”. Although that maybe a good idea in other industries, if you really understood what the “agent” actually does you would feel much differently about how you view that word…!!agent”.
 
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Trading company’s or “agents” have a place in this business and are just as important to the development and production process of your shoes as the concepts themselves. They make life much easier to an already complicated process, especially for the amateurs. You wouldn’t have a single clue what to do without them because they handle the “shit work” like finding the suppliers for materials, and soles. Even down to the foam lining, thread and insoles if necessary and that’s just the beginning.
 
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They coordinated the shipping and logistics from all the suppliers to the shoe factory were the shoes are cut and assembled. An agent also needs to understand if whether you need 100 yards or 125 yards of Velcro for your order, or 3000 or 4000 plastic eyelets…shall I continue? How about the language barrier? Suppliers and factorys are use to working with trading company’s to get there business, and this is an important point to bring up because in most cases the GM (the main contact person) from a factory or supplier typically does not speak great English and rely’s on the trading company to communicate directly with the client. Trading company’s or agents always have 1 or 2 people who speak good English and the really good ones speak multiple languages and will have a team that works under them. So, this is also a barrier that you have to figure out how to get passed if your goal is to still “cut out the middle man”.
 
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Agents or trading company’s generally make there 💰 💴 from a commission (sometimes fixed, or pre negotiated) on your orders, which also translates to…you better be making a shit ton of shoes or else it’s just a massive waste of time for everyone involved. When I say shit ton I mean minimum 10,000 pairs or more if the agent is generous. Agents don’t give a shit about potential or how good your design is, quite frankly when it comes down to this side of the business neither do I. We need to know your serious, and if your ready to play ball which translates to…do you have the money required to pay for all the work that will go into the next 6 to 8 months of development and production? and unfortunately, most of the time the answer is NO.

The point that I am making and want to school you on is that agents have a purpose and for someone who has little to no experience in the shoe business has absolutely no shot (my opinion only) to successfully develop and produce a brand on the international market without working with one, unless however you have family or friendly ties into the shoe business.
 
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It took me 10 years to feel comfortable to work directly with factorys and suppliers. This is something that you do not hear about, but that relationship is much different than an agents relationship. It much more serious and nothing to mess with, and something that amateurs are just not ready for at that stage. Today, I deal directly with suppliers and factorys, work with agents, and I am also an agent myself. The key is working smarter instead of harder and understanding your strengths and weaknesses and I choose to use my shoe intelligence and energy in specific ways and when needed allow others (agents) to do what they do best.

So before you question an agent or state that you want to “cut out the middleman” think about everything I just said, and try to think about how hard it would actually be for you to try and do there job.

Omar Bailey

Founder / Designer of Omar Bailey Footwear