Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A TDP Advertiser’s Tale: “There's no place like home...”

Editor’s note:  Some who are interested in the ongoing conversations around offshoring may find this story by the founder of TDP advertiser Pink Tulips relevant.  (Photo by Amy Etra  via Pink Tulips)

“There's no place like home...”

I wish Dorothy had whispered that phrase in my ear a year ago. That's when I got sidetracked on my journey to grow my handbag company, Pink Tulips. It's been a circuitous trip filled with frustration and regret, and ultimately renewed passion and commitment.

About two and a half years into my little company’s life, opportunity knocked when my handbag designs caught the eye of Urban Outfitters. I received an order for about 800 bags that had to be produced and delivered within 2 months. Immediate temporary work opportunities were created for about 15 people, and I had a stellar team of workers assembled within days. We got it done. I think I learned more in those 8 weeks than I did in 4 years of higher education; not the least of which was that my true passion was in designing the bags, and production is best handled by manufacturers who are better equipped to mass produce.

I started to research outsourced manufacturing. Early on in my search, I fell hook, line and sinker for the promises of a NYC-based rep for a manufacturer located outside the USA, but still in North America. Looking back now, one year later, I wish that Dorothy had been screaming in my ear non-stop.  I could list hundreds (and I DO mean hundreds) of stumbling blocks that arose over those last 12 months.

Some were most certainly due to my inexperience with outsourcing. The vast majority were a direct result of:
  • entrusting control of all aspects of production to a middleman (I learned the hard way that the conveyance of my specifications are completely and utterly dependent on the organizational skills and follow through of the middleman) and  
  • not having physical access to the production facility for oversight (again, complete dependence on a chain of others to ensure my standards were met caused innumerable delays).  
My expectations of lower production costs were ultimately dashed by my actual experience. There were none when the hidden costs of doing business over the borders were factored in. I've now switched to working with an outstanding manufacturer in New Jersey. They are sticklers for detail, efficient, and have turned my sketches and ideas into quality pieces.

Deserving of its own paragraph, though, is the notion of being part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem. I met with an investor a few years ago who scoffed at my intention to keep production in the USA. “I don't go for that crap.”  Those were his exact words.  I thanked him for his time and walked away. It took a year of dealing with an over-the-border exercise in frustration to reinstate my conviction to keep production right here under my nose.

Here's what I've learned on my own journey:
  • Keeping production of my handbags in the USA allows me to ensure the high standards of materials and workmanship that I require in my bags
  • Pink Tulips, LLC is MY passion with MY vision. To entrust its workings to someone else means to dilute what Pink Tulips stands for.
I'm proud of my handbag designs. But equally as important, I'm proud of our reaffirmation to do our part in support of our domestic economy.

There really is no place like home. Just as was true for Dorothy, everything I needed for success was right here all along. And now, having taken that journey, I have a renewed respect for my own Oz, right here with a “Made in America” hang tag.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Earth Day

The creation of Earth Day in 1970 is somewhat akin to a corporation producing a new set of ethics guidelines.  It is less the formalization of a spontaneous celebration and more the result of a culture acknowledging the reaching of some dystopian-predicting threshold.   Whether we have avoided those days of future past or not, time will tell.

Regardless, Earth Day is a convenient time to get one's hands dirty.  (It doesn't take long to realize how different dirt is in different places, from the wonderful black, slightly moist soil to the sandy, inert fill used around construction projects.)

And there are plenty of people who believe that crops grown in better soil are just better.  If so, this salt water farm must produce some of the best food around (which they do).

The farm attracts young volunteers from all over the world, including from Geneva (on left), and New York City (on right).

Gifts from Geneva

This Maremma takes her job of guarding plants very seriously. 

No chemicals are ever added to this soil.

 Instead, people drop off their unwanted leaves here every fall.  During the winter, the leaves break down.

Furrows are made in the leaves, exposing the rich soil below.  Plants are put in the newly exposed soil, and when they grow large enough, the farmers pull the leaves back around the crops to keep in moisture and keep out weeds.

The process reduces the amount of additional water the crops take as well, to nearly none. Crops are watered only when initially planted and in cases of extreme drought. .

This completely natural process must make for healthier animals as well.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Varsity Sailing

It was another beautiful day yesterday in Newport/Narragansset Bay.   And while virtually every mooring was still empty, there was a bit of action to be found, including varsity sailing, with St. George's hosting Cape Cod Academy, The Williams School and North Kingston High School.  Here are a handful of pictures and video snippets.  (Any music was not added in post, but picked up.)