United Sewing and Design 2020 Social Enterprise Report

United Sewing and DesignEach year in CT, social enterprises are required to report their progress toward fulfilling their social impact goals for the previous year. (Click on the 2019 report to see how far we’ve come.) This post is the United Sewing and Design report for 2020 reviewing our progress toward meeting our business goals.

They are:

  • hiring individuals who have barriers to getting and keeping well-paid employment and,
  • diverting materials from the waste stream into our business and preventing materials from our manufacturing processes from entering the waste stream

Goal 1:  Hiring individuals who have barriers to getting and keeping well-paid employment

This year, I continued my focus on hiring formerly incarcerated individuals as independent contractors. I continued working with J.T. who now resides in East Hartford as my primary contractor as well as M.R. who resides in Hartford. These two individuals were well trained in the sewing shops in CT state institutions. Because of what I considered a lack of solid knowledge about COVID transmission, we continued to work remotely in our own workrooms throughout the year. In addition to manufacturing a variety of masks for local hospitals and medical facilities, we also manufactured quilts, apparel, bags, sports gear, home decor, and personal accessories.

In 2020, pay to independent contractors including the formerly incarcerated increased 600% over 2019 totals.  Obviously, our capacity has greatly increased. Fortunately, we benefitted from the Pandemic instead of the alternative. Recently, the boom in some fields of manufacturing has been attributed to the fact that individuals with extra time and money decided that 2020 was their year to start on that product they always wanted to make. We benefitted from this trend because of our prototyping process, breadth of skills, our willingness to take on new challenges and to creatively problem-solve. We are able to pivot successfully from one type of sewn product prototyping and manufacturing to another by working closely with individuals and companies to satisfy their needs. These capabilities and attitudes also allowed us to quickly pivot to manufacture items that were popular during the pandemic such as masks.

Supporting Other Community Members

In addition to these two individuals, I also worked with Andrea Rowe, an accomplished seamstress who owns a Shop at the Westfarms Mall. I’ve known her for over a decade. Andrea experienced a significant downturn in the number of customers who came to her when the Mall fully closed during the beginning of the Pandemic and the permanent closure of Lord and Taylor occurred.  The mall eventually reopened but with greatly reduced traffic. She considered closing her Shop so I was very glad to be able to help Andrea smooth over this income gap by bringing her work. In 2020, I also added an accomplished technical designer who can only work remotely. Having Tara helps broaden our offerings to customers.

 

Goal 2:  Diverting materials from the waste stream into our business and preventing materials from our manufacturing processes from entering the waste stream

In 2020, we collected equipment and materials from all over the state of CT including from the Macys which closed in Meriden. A lot of fabric went to individuals and organizations for mask making. One of those organizations was Hartford Fashion Week which gathered donations of funds and materials to employ local designers and sewists in mask making. Masks were distributed to the United Way in Hartford and other non-profits in the field of family support.

In our workroom, we continue to sort our natural fibers, synthetic fibers, and paper for recycling. Natural fiber scraps are used whole or recycled by us, synthetic fiber materials are taken to Fabscrap in Brooklyn. Our donation to Fabscrap this year totaled 261 pounds of non-natural fiber materials.

Papers are shredded, soaked in water, put through a blender then mixed with cotton fibers to produce handmade paper. During this process, any information contained on the pages is rendered completely unrecognizable.

2021 and Beyond

As well as accepting larger orders from corporate customers, we continue to work with private individuals to help them design their products, create prototypes and execute small production runs. We have also increased our manufacturing capabilities to make larger runs of up to 1000 units. I am moving United Sewing and Design to a larger space in Hartford to support our customers. This move will also increase the number of formerly incarcerated individuals I can employ while maintaining social distancing.  We will be renting space from reSET, Social Enterprise Trust.  reSET is a non-profit incubator and support network for social enterprises like mine. Our new space will be on the second floor of 1429 Park St. at the corner of Bartholemew. This is an up-and-coming area of Hartford which is attracting new businesses, eateries, and housing. The area also continues to support manufacturers, retail, arts venues, and social support organizations. In the new space, we will be replacing older equipment as well as adding new equipment to enlarge our capacity, add new construction techniques, and speed up our production processes.

Follow my Instagram feed to find out what projects we’re working on (that aren’t patented) You can also learn tips for reducing the quantity of material you put into the waste stream, and how you can contribute to the cause of economic justice. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for classes such as this video on choosing textiles for your products. In my emails to customers, I include a variety of business advice and info about trends in soft goods manufacturing. You can join my email list by going to our Contact Us page and entering your info. You may also find the info in my blog useful. You can subscribe to that here.

Online Tutorials for Sewing Contractors

As a sewing contractor, I am always searching for more information to be able to create the best products I can for my customers. In this 20 minute blog post, I am listing four tutorial resources that I’ve found helpful.

Kathleen Fasanella

I can’t say enough positive things about Kathleen. Her singular devotion to the success of sewing contractors and apparel designers is legendary. I recommend her book, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing to many designers I meet. It’s thorough, easy to read, and chock full of useful info. She even includes examples of documents you can use to keep track of your garment production processes. In addition, her website, Fashion-Incubator: Lessons from the Sustainable Factory Floor contains her blog, tweets, class list and great links.

The Rowley Company

The Rowley Company is my wholesale supplier for pillow forms, tools and machine parts. I featured them in my post about suppliers a few months back. They also have a lengthy list of webinars and how-to videos about anything related to manufacturing home decor items. If you want to know how to make a home dec item and find all the necessary parts (except the decorator fabrics) Rowley should be your source.

Sewing Parts Online

I just came across Sewing Parts Online a week or so ago while searching for sewing machine attachments. Most of the blog posts and videos seem to be geared toward home sewists. But I found a few, including this one about types of thread, which can be helpful to designers and manufacturers alike.

YouTube

If you’re considering buying a new machine or attachment for your workroom, you can find great demos on YouTube. In the search bar, type in “Industrial __________Machine Demo.” Fill in the blank with the machine you want to see such as a coverstitch machine. Most of the videos are from manufacturers, so you can do some comparison shopping before purchasing.

Hope you find this post helpful! Be sure to add any tips you have on finding online tutorials in the comments.

 

Entrepreneur Blogging: A New Model?

Blogging for Entrepreneurs Who Have No Time to Blog

Meeting to scale up a businessHere’s an idea! How about if entrepreneurs who blog as a part of their business get to compose, edit and market a blog post in 10-20 minutes? Here’s why I’m proposing this new model. As you can tell if you look at the frequency of my posts, they are infrequent! From what I have seen on websites I visit, I’m not the only one with this problem. When I review the analytics of this website, I can see dips in visits in between my posts. Not a good thing. Whenever I think about posting, I have no problem with generating ideas, I just can’t seem to set enough time aside to compose the recommended 700-1000 words complete with the proper titles, links, categories, tags, images, etc. Is this you? Is a 10-20 minute blog post optimal? Maybe not. But, is it better than nothing at all? Absolutely! So, until I have a break between filling customer orders which I can use to write a full blog post, I’ll be creating short posts on ideas, issues, and questions I’m thinking about in 20 minutes or less. I’m going to focus mainly on info that readers will find helpful and thought provoking. My first installment is below. Follow my blog for more!

The CT Small Business Development Center

I am currently working on scaling up United Sewing and Design, which is a daunting process but exciting and fulfilling as well. I can’t say enough about my mentor Jim Jackson from the Small Business Development Center. I meet with him in the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce on Main St. in Middletown. He has experience in most of the business issues I’m working on: customer relations, manufacturing, lean practices, business structure, and more. And on top of all that good stuff, it’s free. If you’re an entrepreneur, a social entrepreneur like me, a business owner or are thinking of starting a business, I highly encourage you to connect with them right away.

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Thought About Racism and Your Business?

bridges are built with respect
bridges are built with respect Photo by Tim Swaan on Unsplash

I was planning to write a post about the fast vs slow fashion this week, but decided instead to write on what has been on my mind for months now. I’m in a “put up or shut up” mind set after re-reading my LinkedIn profile the first sentence of which reads

“Business is about putting our beliefs to work. It’s not enough to talk about what you think is wrong; you must apply what you know best to create change.”

Also, I ran across Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in which he chastises white moderates:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is … the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice…..Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

I’ve been delaying writing about the place of racism in business for two reasons, neither of which I could be faulted for. First, obviously, racism is a controversial topic. As a small business owner, honestly expressing my opinion about it could potentially damage my business in multiple ways not the least of which is alienating potential customers. As you undoubtedly realize, small business owners have a very close relationship with the brand image of their businesses.  It is therefore, fair to assume that the business would suffer if the views of the owner are seen as misguided.

Find out more!

Planning to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Get out of your entrepreneurial cave! Seek out mentors for branding and other essential business topics. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Get out of your entrepreneurial cave! Seek out mentors for branding and other essential business topics. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

It’s so easy, when you’re an entrepreneur, to keep your head down and just plow forward. There’s so much to do! Lead generation; contracts to complete; meeting with customers, vendors, and contractors; sorting out what government programs are right for your business, etc., etc. We often forget to take the time to step back and reflect, evaluate, and seek advice when necessary.

On Twitter, I follow several sources of business info of which inc.com is one of the best. No window dressing, no big egos, no verbosity; just concrete, unfluffy, get-to-the-point info that you really need. This recent article by Emily Richett, “These Aren’t Survival Tips. 5 Ways to Actually Thrive in Your New Business” is an especially useful one.

Find out more!

Entrepreneurial Success is a Quest

“If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” I’m not sure where that quote originates and I don’t particularly care to research it. Truth is truth. In a modern world where “women are doing it for themselves,” this doesn’t even begin to touch on what life is like for a middle-aged woman, raising a […]

via A Young Girl’s Perspective: The Child of a Woman Entrepreneur — 3sidedtruth’s Blog