I recently attended a manufacturing workshop in North Carolina, specifically tailored to small businesses like Janery.
North Carolina was the heart of America’s furniture manufacturing industry, as well as home to many clothing factories. But one by one the large corporations moved their production overseas, in a quest for ever cheaper labor prices.
But at what cost?
At least 120,000 sewing jobs were lost in North Carolina between 1995-2010. Many production shops closed entirely. I saw the devastating effects when I drove through ghost towns like Conover and Drexel.
The Drexel Heritage [Furniture Company] plant on Main Street in downtown Drexel, NC closed in 2003 and is now demolished, leaving a gaping hole of rubble (below ground level):
(Drexel Heritage also owns Lane, Thomasville, and Broyhill, and is responsible for cutting more than 9,000 North Carolina jobs after moving production to Asia for cheap labor.)
On Drexel's Main Street, only one business remains open:
To bring jobs back to the community, the North Carolina Textile District is working to connect business owners with factories. These factories are learning to work with small businesses like mine who want only ethical US manufacturers.
When I first started Janery, I planned to hire women in my community to sew for me. The business has grown, and my products are now in stores in five states. But I continue to sew all the products myself. I’d like to hire seamstresses to join my team, but some of my products require specialized sewing equipment that’s usually found in sewing factories.
Ethical and American manufacturing is at the heart of the Janery culture. I was excited to learn that having my waterproof and washable pet beds made in a North Carolina factory could actually be more affordable and efficient than having them made by individual seamstresses near me.
I enjoyed the class, learning how fabrics are woven on industrial looms, and I loved the tours of the sewing production houses. My favorite was an employee-owned cut and sew company that recycles everything and has a very positive employee culture.
This week I began the process of working with the District to find my manufacturer and get specific pricing. It takes an average of 6 months to go from finding a manufacturer to getting pricing, then approving samples, and then actually having your product mass produced – so I need to get started now.
I believe it’s important to be transparent about manufacturing, so I look forward to sharing more with you as this journey continues. But most of all, I’m excited to know that I can truly contribute to manufacturing job creation as Janery grows next year.