Quite coincidentally -considering yesterday’s entry– a DE sent me this story of her trip (also yesterday) to meet a sewing contractor. She says she wishes she’d read the entry before she left but says the experience was much as has been described in the past. I asked if I could print it here and she agreed. She wishes to remain anonymous on the front page but is willing to share her resources and contacts in the member’s forum.
I wanted to share my experience yesterday, especially since after my trip to an area sewing contractor, I read your recent post about “textile manufacturing“. I got a kick out of it since I experienced a lot of what you wrote about in that post.
I braved the icy roads yesterday and drove up to the sewing contractor’s plant manager. Overall, I felt really good about it, and I came away from it feeling excited, and a little bit nervous (in a good way), because it’s such a big move to make and I am SO ready to move forward. I’ve waited for this for two years, looking for and interviewing sewing contractors, and I think part of me was starting to believe that sewing contractors would remain elusive and it would never happen.
For my presentation, I brought finished product, a couple of half-sewn products, about 10 samples of fabric, plus some hi-res glossy photos from customers. Those photos were really what made the presentation because he could see the product in context. So he got to see quite a range of what I’ve made, as well as seeing them up-close in-person.
I read your post today about how we expect people in the industry to be abrupt. The plant manager was definitely all business, and there was good reason, he had lots of jobs running and over 70 employees to keep efficiently productive. The “abruptness” was good for me – I had to be on the ball. Before I went there, I re-read my business plan to help stay focused in my presentation (unlike some other sewing contractors, he didn’t request that I bring a copy of my business plan, but I wanted to be prepared to answer questions). In any case, I really liked his demeanor – he wasn’t rude, but he was very direct. Once we got talking and we got past the point where (I assume) he realized I wasn’t just some fly-by-night fruit loop who was wasting his time, it was less “abrupt” -even fun- more casual, but still all business. I was honest with him and he was straightforward with me. I was armed with what I’ve learned in your book, but I also know that I’m still naive about so many things. I answered and asked questions and there was no weird sales pitch double-talk stuff, nor any patronizing treatment.
He told me about the process, the possible snags, the challenges, and so on. What kinds of customers they like to work with and don’t like to, and why they have continue to work with long term clients and have turned other contracts down. He definitely talked ‘building a relationship’, not just sewing products. He talked about how they work with clients to help streamline both the product and the process, without sacrificing quality. He also understood that my venture, for all intents and purposes, is a start-up, even though I’ve been in business for almost 3 years doing custom work.
From an “adventure” point of view, it was so cool to be in a sewing factory! I know you and others on the board have seen your share, but I haven’t been in one since I was a kid, and I don’t remember anything about it. I really felt like a kid in a toy store, wanting to stare at and touch and play with everything, which I had to suppress since I wasn’t there to gawk and drool over sewing machines or to stare over people’s shoulders to see how they were doing things! I got the full tour, from the offices, to the pattern making room, to the production and cutting area, to the warehouse, packing, quality control (they QC every piece!), even the machine room where they fix the sewing machines and customize their own equipment.
It was also just so cool to see a company that has 72 full time employees (and growing) in this region doing so well, considering that so many are gone now. You talked about the blue-collar aspect of this industry – this is where I grew up, and these people were exactly like the people I grew up with. I think one reason it went well is that I said I was from here and I really liked the idea of keeping my products made in my home state. So many businesses that supported so many families here – not just sewing contractors, but nearly all manufacturing companies – are gone now. I would be honored to help keep a thriving business going here, and growing mine here is also important to me.
So, that’s it for now. I have a lot to process and a lot of work to do! As I told one of my good friends, this may not be the Big Step yet, but it felt like a big step toward the Big Step. And I couldn’t have done it without you.
Oh, and I should mention that they didn’t have a sign up, at least not one that I could see. I wandered around the building and had to call them to ask how to get in.