Good on you! We all know China's a huge country with thousands of factories making everything from iPhone covers to market umbrellas to trolley wheels to greetings cards to floor tiles to mining drill bits to pumps to modular kitchens to... you get the idea. Whatever you want, you can probably source it from China. If you want a big enough quantity, and if you can find the right supplier.
We can't help you with what quantity you want to order, but we can give you some idea of your options for finding a supplier. Here's the main ones
Use a sourcing website like madeinchina.com or alibaba.com
Wendy Huang already wrote an article on SavvySME about sourcing from Alibaba, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this option. The main point is that there is risk because the supplier checking is quite limited, so you need to do what you can to protect yourself from that risk. It can be quite time-consuming, and if anything goes wrong, you're on your own trying to sort it out. We've received many queries from people who used sourcing sites and ended up looking for help.
On the other hand, you've got a lot of control and you're not paying anyone else. If you want small quantities, this may be the only option which makes financial sense, and if the outlay is small, your risk is not so great.
Use an overseas trading company
Trading companies act as a middleman between you and the Chinese supplier. Major advantages are that they usually speak the language, understand the culture and have networks in place already. Plus they understand international trade and shipping.
On the other hand, you are probably still dealing with someone overseas who you've never met. And you've now got an intermediary who needs to make money out of the transaction too.
Use an Australian-based sourcing agency
Similar to an international trading company, but with Australian offices and staff. The best of them (us, for example!) have their own offices in China too - but as part of an international organisation, they're less likely to have commission deals with the local suppliers which can create conflict of interest.
Once again, you will save your own time and get access to experts in sourcing, negotiation, quality control, shipping and import.
Attend trade fairs or go on product sourcing tours in China
This method has the great benefit of meeting potential suppliers face-to-face and establishing some kind of relationship. Not only does this give you some 'gut feel' about the business (and you may even get to visit it as well), but those relationships are really important in Chinese business culture.
However, a trip to China is a relatively big cost, still with no guarantee you'll find the right supplier. If you do want to do this, we'd recommend you use a professional guide and interpreter to help you get real benefit from the trip. Unless of course you have your own friends, family and connections in China already.
All these options are possible, and you have to do your own research and decide what's right for your circumstances. In many cases, it makes sense to start by importing via a trading company or sourcing agency. This gives a balance of risk and cost and lets you dip your toe in the water without drowning completely!
So if you've got an idea for something you could import from China, why not start investigating today?
(By the way, everything listed in that top paragraph is something we at Hornet have helped clients import from China. You really can get anything there!)