When Jasmine and I decided to launch Marielle|Ejiama, we knew that we had a lot of learning ahead of us. For industry newbies like ourselves, manufacturing appeared to be a complicated, expensive, and overall daunting task. Fortunately, we are nothing if not ambitious (and headstrong).
We did a lot of searching (sometimes right here on Maker’s Row) and cold-calling/emailing. Ultimately, the decision to source and to manufacture domestically both suited our needs and fit our mission for two overarching reasons.
1. Manageable minimum orders
Ever cold called an overseas factory and learned that the minimum order is five thousand garments? High minimum orders means high start up costs. These high start up costs can prevent you from even entering the market, so bypassing this hurdle entirely is definitely a plus.
High minimums can also lead to surplus inventory, which can squeeze your cash flow. The ability to manufacture in small batches allows us to control our inventory, and thus our cash flow, more smoothly. Managing our inventory also means that we are not producing more than we sell, so we get to skip figuring out how to offload excess inventory at the end of a season. In short, we make what we need.
2. Face-to-face relationships
It’s awesome that we have been able to establish face-to-face relationships with Kingsland Printing and Quick Turn Clothing — relationships that would not have been possible if we were to manufacture overseas. These relationships are essential for maintaining accountability within our supply chain. A lot of the breakdown in ethically and sustainably manufacturing garments comes from complicated, hard-to-supervise supply chains. Actively considering people and the environment is integral to what we do, so we love that our manufacturing partners are just a subway ride away and we get see their operations firsthand.
Also, being close to our manufacturers allows us to truly understand our production process from beginning to end, to ask a lot of questions (our manufacturers are consistently responsive), and to make changes to our order in (almost) real-time.
Finally, manufacturing domestically means that shipping distances are shorter, so less fuel and less environmental impact. Manufacturing domestically was a decision of both necessity and deep-seated desire to make the best choices around how we treat people and the environment.