First, try searching for a description of a product similar to yours in the resources below. Take notes on machines, materials or processes that are identified. Use these as search terms later.
Can't find your exact product? Think more flexibly!
Is there an existing item that has similar characteristics? Perhaps you're making notebook paper that can be wiped and reused. The process for manufacturing whiteboards might provide information your group can use.
Once you have a list of potential processes, materials and machinery, you can start to search for suppliers.
A critical point to remember: If you find a supplier outside of North America, you will face additional costs to import them into the country. This will make it more difficult to calculate your production expenses.
The suppliers site is divided between search interfaces for North American suppliers and global suppliers (mostly Asia).
This is one place where you might optimize your time with the librarian to get recommendations more specific to your product. Be open to using books as sources of this information or leveraging contacts within existing companies to get benchmarks.
Pay attention to information you already have:
In the end, you will have to make an estimate based on the best available information. There isn't a perfect answer.
The markup rate - whether wholesale to retail, retail to consumer - varies by industry. There isn't one definitive source that provides this answer. Some strategies for finding this information:
JMU has several books on quality management in businesses. Besides the books below, considering using JMU's Library Search tool for phrases like: standards, "lean manufacturing," "Six Sigma," or "total quality management."
To distribute your product, you'll need to get the materials to your warehouse for manufacturing and then ship finished products.
This could be the rates you'll pay to have a supplier ship raw materials to you, or the price you'll pay to ship the final product to customers.