Manufacturing takes dedication, attention to detail and operational know-how. There is no class you can take to tell you everything you need to know on starting a hat factory in Manhattan, an apparel production company, or a sawmill in Brooklyn. Starting or taking over a factory is no easy task. We wanted to highlight the stories of 11 entrepreneurs under 40 years old who have decided to take the road less traveled and start (or take over) a manufacturing business.
1. Ad Sachan (age 28), Founder of Treeline Woodworks
An engineer by trade, Ad finds life exciting when he finds a way to “build things better”. Through his time in socially and environmentally conscious non-profits and companies, Ad started Treeline Woodworks with John Mahroukian, in September 2013. Treeline serves to be a fully outfitted custom woodworking outfit, based in Los Angeles, that specializes in working with reclaimed lumber. “Everything from custom home furniture to building materials (flooring, structural beams, etc.) is our forte. We find it a privilege to be based in one of the strongest cities in this country for manufacturing and believe in creating a sensible supply chain, developing new processes for treating age old materials and building an elegant product that will stand the test of time” says Ad.
2. Rebecca Clark (age 38), Founder of Michigan Fashion Proto
From Lansing, Michigan, Rebecca moved to New York and attended Pratt Institute for Fashion Design. She worked for many designers throughout her 12 years in the city; starting out as an intern at Jill Stuart, and working her way up to VP and Design Director at Li & Fung for Simply Vera, Vera Wang, Logo (for Lori Goldstien on QVC), Daisy Fuentes. Believing she could make it in fashion wherever she lived, she moved back to her home state, Michigan and quickly identified a budding industry that lacked some of the resources that the NYC garment district had, such as pattern and sample makers. So she opened Michigan Fashion Proto, a consulting, pattern and sample making resource, which turned into a short-run production facility as well. “I am thankful now for a thriving business that seems to be growing each month. During these past years, in addition to starting two businesses, I had my beautiful daughter Brooklyn, who is the absolute highlight of my life.” says Rebecca.
3. Stephen Meyer (age 26), Co-Owner of Pergamena
The Meyer family has been in the manufacturing business since 1550. Stephen Meyer is continuing the tradition, and although he received a B.A. in History at State University of NY, Geneseo, he’s been working in his family business since he was young and now works full-time on Pergamena with his father, Karl and his brother Jesse. Stephen helps with the marketing and general management of the business, you can watch a video interview here.
4. Jennifer Evans (age 37), Founder and CEO, The Evans Group
Jennifer Evans has spent over 15 years leading and developing new practices within the garment industry. Born to a family of conscientious entrepreneurs, Jennifer knew early she wanted to forge her own path in her field of choice, but couldn’t have guessed then that high fashion would be her vehicle to do so.
For four years, Jennifer worked as Director of Development for Marta Kappl Couture in San Francisco. While in that position, she sought high-quality workmanship for the designer’s custom pieces. To find it, she moved to New York to lead the acquisition of couture and tailoring facilities, where she learned the unique processes of creating high-end apparel and, with a nod to her future, learned the needs of the workers in the industry. She created a social enterprise program aimed at training garment workers from mass-production factories to sew high-end clothing in small volumes, serving independent designers. The program, originally intended as a fundraising measure for the school, was inundated almost overnight with orders. Unwittingly, Jennifer had sewn the seeds of The Evans Group.
5. Satya Twena (age 30), Founder, NY Hats
Satya’s first entrepreneurial endeavor started when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Satya used her artistic skills to make her hats (out of her kitchen). In a few short years Satya has expanded her company into a lifestyle brand which includes women’s hosiery. In 2013 Satya took her businesses further by saving one of Manhattan’s last remaining hat factories. Satya grew up in Southern California & graduated from Wellesley College.
6 and 7. Dan Richfield (age 34) and Roger Benton (age 37), Founders of RECO BKLYN
Dan owned a web hosting company for 10 years, but wanted to do something more physical. He ended up selling that business and went on to start learning about off-grid housing and furniture making. Initially, he started furniture making at 3rd ward, where he met his partner Roger Benton, then a teacher at 3rd ward. Together, they started RECO BKLYN, the only sawmill in NYC. They create pieces of furniture using reclaimed lumber. Dan has also built himself an off-grid house in the high desert in Northern New Mexico. But is now working on RECO BKLYN full time in Brooklyn, NYC.
8. Mindy Martell (age 36), Founder of Clothier Design Source (CDS)
Mindy has worked through a series of corporate jobs in the apparel industry when she realized there was a problem that needed to be solved, so she created CDS. Now Clothier Design Source has over 20 employees and is growing along with their customer’s lines. By producing high quality garments and allowing access to low production minimums, CDS is keeping warehouses clear of overstocked product and helping customers get their new product off the ground.
9, 10 and 11. Kyle Mosholder (age 30), Andrew Livingston (age 21) and Daniel Rickard Guy (age 34), Founders of Knickerbocker Mfg Co.
For Knickerbocker, it all started with the previous factory owner, where Andrew became the last client he was manufacturing for. At the time Kyle was making some bags for the shop Andrew had in Williamsburg while Dan was manufacturing some leather goods. Both happened to have just moved out of their studios looking for new space.
Watman, the previous owner, kept pushing it on Andrew to take on the space, but he was hesitant until joining forces with Kyle and Dan. Watman gave the three of them an offer, they counter offered and he took the deal. Andrew, Kyle and Dan set up a Kickstarter and with a bit of luck, raised the money to pay Watman. From there they began cleaning up the space, tuning the machines and with some good marketing the orders flowed in. They are now manufacturing for other labels while running their own label.