One month ago, I left for China, journeying there to (1) see the factory where our cast-iron maize shellers are made and (2) conduct quality control (QC) the products that will be in Tanzania in two months. This trip was a phenomenal experience for me, as I had always read about manufacturing at scale, but I had indeed never seen manufacturing at the Chinese scale where 1,000 is too small of a quantity to manufacture.
I landed in Hong Kong on the first of May, where I then met with Shawn Frayne of Haddock Invention. Both of us MIT alumni and students of Amy Smith of MIT’s D-Lab, or International Development Program, this was a great opportunity for us to share the challenges of working in our sector as well as hear about where things are going for the both of us. Shawn is indeed doing amazing things such as B-squares with Jordan McRae and his new Coho Solar Project, and I urge you all to check his work out!
Shawn gave me tips to getting around China, and he shared me how he finds OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), and I was soon introduced to how to use Alibaba to find manufacturers and then screen them. You discover that some people are running hole-in-the-wall places, but it’s a good starting point as you’re bound to get 1 hit despite the dozens of options.
I then went to Taiwan, where I met with a few Taiwanese businessmen who source Chinese products for American companies. I learned that for every manufacturer they work with, it’s a building of a relationship and a fairly intense screening process…6 months long! But, the peak of my Taiwan excursion was when I went to the Taipei Exhibition Center, and I was able to get some “priceless” items, which included the Taiwan Bicycle Source, which includes the contacts of hundreds of bicycle and bicycle part factories throughout Taiwan and China…and these were just the Taiwanese companies!
From there, my trip was all about China. I went to the China Cycle International Show in Shanghai to see the latest designs in bicycles. It was amazing to see the new generation of electric bicycles as well as some “bike” designs of the future, like with the DreamSlide.
The following day, I left on a 8-hour train to Dezhou, where I then visited our casting manufacturers to meet the president of the factory and then to QC the products. It was indeed an experience to remember! I have attached a bit of video to educate you about the process of casting and how GCS is ensuring quality.
My trip ended in Shenzhen, the fastest growing city in China (its population grew over 50-fold in the past 25 years!) and home of nearly all the electronics you could ever dream of. There, my life changed in realizing the vast opportunity of business in China. I purchased a few sample products, and we’ll see how the market