My father came to this country at age 19 for an opportunity at a better life, which I can confidently say he accomplished. He graduated college, served in the military and recently retired after 30+ years working for the Navy. He and my mother also raised five children, put us all through college and set us on a course to paving our own paths.
I always knew that living in this country granted us many opportunities. So, when I started my company Spand-Ice, I wanted to make sure our thermal therapy clothing was “American Made.” I wanted to focus on bringing a product to life in my own backyard, where textile manufacturing used to flourish, but has since been outsourced to other countries for cheaper mass-production. Reshoring helps to stimulate our economy by supporting manufacturing and raw goods production here in America.
During the two years of building my business in back pain therapy clothing, more and more reasons to be “Made in America” became clear. I learned that foreign production can actually cost a small business more time, hassle, and ultimately money. But there are other reasons to bring manufacturing home that may have you reconsidering your production process.
The Easy Factor:
For Spand-Ice, selecting a manufacturing partner in the USA was not an overly intimidating task, as my team and I were able to visit multiple factories, meet face-to-face with potential partners and easily weigh the pros and cons of each factory throughout the vetting process.
We are very lucky to partner with a manufacturing company based in Virginia that, not only has a mutual interest in our product and process, but also provides the thermal therapy we wanted to use in conjunction with our clothing. This vertical integration was a big win for us as it saved time in planning, and money in saved shipping costs.
US manufacturing also allows for quicker turnaround times between product samples, easy communication, and the ability to be nimble with changes and decisions. By not having a time-zone or language barrier, we don’t have to rely on other people to approve our garments and in turn have tighter tolerances for quality and standards.
Creating a Team:
As a small business, we’re looking for a long-term partnership with our factory to help bring our products and brand vision to life. Our manufacturers have a collective 100+ years of industrial cut and sew experience for small and large brands. They share their experience, knowledge and even tools with my team. We get help with fabric sourcing and tips of the trade, and they have trustworthy sources and contacts for us to work with. They invest their time and energy into our relationship, which is prevalent in after-hours calls, weekend emails and the occasional site visits where we work through issues that often arise when you’re developing a new product.
Production for our garments is not just done by automated machinery, but by actual people sewing the goods together. We’ve met and worked hand-in-hand with these amazing sewers that are assembling our therapy clothing. They are not only skilled, but also dependable to work through problems that may arise, and assist in streamlining our complicated sewing operations. This mutual investment and respect is what we rely on to help us bring the best possible therapy clothing to life.
Time and Money:
In the end, for most of us, running a business comes down to time and money. When you’re a small company starting out like myself, you may go through many iterations and samples to get your product ‘production ready’. It is priceless to be able to go down to our factory for a production test-run before the full production run. An issue with our fabric arose last week and we were able to sit down with our vendor and correct the error. Had I produced our garments overseas, this may have been a logistical nightmare requiring a translator, inspector, expeditor, and, in the end, more time and money.
Manufacturing products in the US may cost more money per unit, however, the minimums are much lower and factories here are willing to work with small entrepreneurs to get them up and running. In our experience, purchasing overseas requires large order quantities, which results in tied up cash and excess inventory sitting on the shelves. Since our first production run was 500 units, we were able to fulfill all of our Kickstarter orders and then some, therefore optimizing the cost per unit.
Consumers Do Care:
It’s not only a stimulant for the economy to produce in the USA, but it also makes people want to invest in your company. American consumers are passionate about backing products made on US soil.
Last month as we successfully concluded our Kickstarter campaign to sell our first 250 back pain therapy garments, we got a lot of praise and buzz about being made in America. It means something to the buyer and is an important selling factor.
For Spand-Ice, living in Pittsburgh (The Steel City) only reinforces the necessity for American Made goods. Even though the US has fewer manufacturing jobs now than at the height of the 20th century, as an inventor and small business owner, it not only makes sense to continue manufacturing in the US, but it’s needed to ensure that the passing on of knowledge throughout the generations continues.
That’s why companies like Maker’s Row are so important for connecting businesses with American factories that can produce their goods. Our vision is to build a brand to help people manage all kinds of pain “on-the-go,” and we’ve found our partner behind the seams to make it happen. If you’re looking for a local manufacturing partner to help you bring your products to life, look no further than Maker’s Row and you too can be proud to be able to say Made in America.