blogging

These Days Everything is Made in China, Right? Not Quite!

Step into a casual conversation with someone about the economy, and it’s not uncommon to hear someone say “Everything is made in China”. Looking on the bottom of half the items you purchase at the store (even grocery stores are selling items from China) you’ll discover a “Made in China” sticker or engraving on the product. It would seem that “Everything is made in China” is an observation of the truth. Yet it isn’t.

I’ll digress for a moment… My company does a great deal of manufacturing in China. So, after developing a new product, we didn’t consider anywhere else but China for our manufacturing. The idea of Korea, Vietnam, Guatemala, or any other country wasn’t on our mind at all. We have established relationships with factories and suppliers in China. We have agents in China that perform our quality control. It’s just the natural choice.

Delay after delay after delay soon had me thinking that something wasn’t quite right with our choice of factory, so I set out to do some research into the materials we needed. During the process, I found that the United States had a massive manufacturing industry. In fact, US manufacturing as of 2009 is still larger than China by $200 billion! To top it off, the apparel industry (which is what our new product is) was the largest manufacturing industry in the United States! My mind was ablaze with opportunity…

At the center of the US apparel manufacturing industry? Los Angeles (and New York). I found countless pointers to the California Market Center. Fashion shows, trade shows, manufacturing resources, suppliers… Everything was right here in Los Angeles, and my timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The LA Textile Show was just a week away!

Fast forward to the Textile show and mountains or research, phone calls, Internet searches later… I found the suppliers of the materials I need for our new items but what about the finisher? Fortunately, I found Fashion Business, Inc, a non-profit resource for the fashion industry in the United States. They had a couple of seminars they were doing during the LA Textile show that were right up the alley of what I was looking for, and the material suppliers at the show were very helpful as well.

The materials (of which I could choose American, Italian, and any other sources) were at the ready. There was no 30 day wait like I had with my China factory, and the materials were genuine leather as opposed to the bonded leather product we were being sold as genuine leather in China (a costly endeavor I’ll save for another blog). Finding a finishing company that was still in business was going to be hard to come by, but I was feeling quite positive about manufacturing a product in the United States! Especially one made with all US materials!

I made an appointment with a belt finishing company in Los Angeles (one of less than a handful left from an industry that used to be filled with competition). As soon as I walked into the LA location and showed them the belt… “We can’t make that type of belt. We don’t have the ability to make feathered edge belts in the United States.” Uh oh… But I wasn’t going to stop until I had checked every single belt finisher off my list!

Finisher after finisher had the same story. We don’t have the ability to do that here. I had a very memorable conversation with a finisher in New York:

Jared: I have a leather belt I’d like to make here in the United States

NY: Why?

Jared: I want to manufacture a belt in the United States, use US materials and US labor. Put people to work here. There are half a dozen more reasons I can give you.

NY: Well, it’s going to cost you a lot more than China.

Jared: I know. I’ll worry about that with my pricing, and I have a very unique product so it’s a bit different from the run of the mill belt. However, I have to tell you that I have a unique men’s belt, and I want a feathered edge.

NY: Feathered edge? We can’t do that. Nobody in America can do that. Good luck (click)

I’ll admit that I was a bit disheartened by the weeks of searching for a finishing company only to be told that my particular want is not possible by half a dozen of the dwindling field of belt factories in the United States. I even went about changing the product to a more casual design that would not require the feathered edge. I really wanted a US made belt!

I’ll admit that I’m pretty happy that all this happened. I developed a new casual version of our product that is amazing, and I did eventually find the perfect finishing company that can make both the beveled edge and feathered edge belts. They are even providing a great wealth of knowledge and resources for future designs, leathers, and other materials that will help expand the belt line.

US manufacturing is not dead. It’s struggling and merely a shadow of itself. However, when I consider the continued rising costs of raw materials on an international level, the skyrocketing costs of fuel and freight charges for products manufactured in China, and the constant problems we had in particular around this belt… Made in USA is the clear direction and entirely possible! The quality of the product is better. The turn around time is much faster. The ability to launch new styles and materials is much easier. There are a myriad of benefits from “onshoring” the production of this new product!

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Business, technology, Work

Sharper Image Bankruptcy Prediction Coming True

During the holiday of 2006, I posted a verbose blog about how Sharper Image is going down the tubes. My prediction was off by a few months, but reality has finally hit The Sharper Image management. Sharper Image Bankruptcy is now reality.

I had to update this blog as news about Sharper Image’s Bankruptcy started hitting the news all over the place:

Multi-Channel Merchant
DIRECT Newsline
CNN Money
CNBC
MSNBC
NY Times
Forbes
Reuters

Of course, it was all over the major news networks yesterday and today as well. So, I decided to a couple of section.

When Analyzing the Sharper Image Bankruptcy, You Might Know You’re Crazy If:

  • You think Sharper Image won’t be sued by it’s investors
  • You think Sharper Image was going to turn things around after firing founder Richard Thalheimer
  • You think Brookstone is going to fill the shoes of Sharper Images

The decline of any giant like Sharper Image is always good news for others. For instance, there will be countless lawyers and collection agents who will have additional work because of this monumental blunder. Richard Thalheimer will have to hire additional employees to handle the added traffic to his RichardSolo.com. Also, it gives the media plenty of work and has kept a lot of stockbrokers busy as of late. There are likely bound to be countless books about Sharper Image coming out. Here are a few title suggestions:

  • Tarnished Image
  • Death of a Gadget Salesman: Why Firing Richard Thalheimer Expedited the Decline of Sharper Image
  • The New Face of Innovation: Bankruptcy
  • The Rise and Fall of the Holy Gadget Empire
blogging, Business, thoughts, Work

Knight Rider Ratings Won’t Keep It On-Air. But Don’t Count It Out Yet

After having slept through most of the 2 hour premiere of the new Knight Rider on NBC last night, I was about to say it would have one season of life. That was until I paid closer attention to the sponsors: Ford and Microsoft.

The new K.I.T is a Mustang. Depending upon what happens to sales of the mustang over the next television season, we can expect Knight Rider to be back because Ford will be willing to pay for the show.

Microsoft has considerable interest in NBC (MSNBC). Depending upon how well Ford vehicles with Microsoft’s Sync system sell, you can bet that Microsoft will be willing to help pay to keep the show on their television partner, NBC.

In much more simple terms: Knight Rider is an infomercial for Ford and Microsoft. I’ve tried this before on a much lower budget when I produced a television talk show starring Christine Eads. It is a brilliant idea if sales pan out for Ford and Microsoft.

Is Microsoft on the verge of creating the modern equivalent to Soap Operas? Will we call them Sync Operas? Stay tuned to NBC and Knight Rider to find out!

blogging, Business, cool stuff, Economics, life, Politics, thoughts, Work

If Everyone Watched The Big Idea…

What would happen if everyone in America watches The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch on CNBC? First, there would be a run on the cable companies because you can only get CNBC on cable. Second, fellow blogger Tony Iovino would take his $600 check he’ll receive from the Federal government in May and actually cash it to invest it into a new invention (and he would start using the vastly superior WordPress blogging system). Third, the US economy would flourish.

Today, Bush signed his stimulus package, creating checks for millions of people in our economy. Lots of people love to complain about the symantics of the deal. Call it welfare. Call it a rebate. Call it what you want, it is our Federal government giving money to people that live in America.

Using some of the people I’ve seen on The Big Idea as an example, what those $600 checks have the potential to do is generate billions (yes, you read that correctly, BILLIONS) of dollars in revenue/income for Americans. How? Well, you should watch The Big Idea. The show has featured scores of people who have started their business for little more (sometimes even less) than $600. These people has created jobs, used resources that support other businesses, and made people a lot of money.

Sure, if everyone who receives a check goes a spends it on a toy at Walmart, it won’t do much for boosting the economy. However, let’s have a little fun with the math here. 130,000,000 Americans are going to receive a check. If even 0.1% of the people who receive checks become Donny Deutsch success stories, we are talking about generating $130,000,000,000 of revenue for the US economy over the next year! That’s correct, just one-tenth of one percent of the people who receive the checks need to become Donny Deutsch success stories for the checks to pay for themselves in just two year. One-tenth of one percent. That is about the same as a run-of-network banner advertisement on ValueClick!

Business, culture, life, technology, thoughts, travel, Work

Think You Are Not Entitled to Overtime?

Think again! Gotovertime.com has compiled a list of common reasons we think we are exempt from overtime:

Chances are you’ve fallen into one of these traps. I know plenty of people who have. Most of which are computer programmers. For some reason people in IT seem to really be disgruntled by the amount of work they provide, the amount of value they provide to the company, and how little they are compensated and valued by their employer.

Guess what IT folks? You’re rights to overtime are changing and not for the better. Here’s a bit of news to help you feel even more upset about your unfair treatment at work. Of course, you’ll probably just sit there and complain rather than do something about your unfair treatment. Good luck with that.

oooooooor… Do yourself a favor and be the first guy at your company to must up enough guts to make a difference for all the people in IT who have been taken advantage of before you’re rights to overtime are whittled away to nothing.

blogging, Business, cool stuff, Education, inspiration, philosophy, thoughts

Is Business Wiki a Viable Option?

Wiki projects have become widely used from sharing shopping experiences to the ultimate online encyclopedia. Something that I’ve been thinking about for a while is whether a business wiki a viable option. A business wiki would be for business professionals to share valuable business process knowledge to help others expand their business while potentially learning from others they would have never expected to learn from? Are executives and employees willing to share information that might potentially increase their competition?

Most of business is run on removing competition. Stifling competition. Killing competition. Keeping everything a secret. Keeping business knowledge scarce. What would it be like if that wasn’t the case? If there was a free flow of informations for companies to learn from past mistakes of other companies?

If your competition goes up, the only option you have is to innovate. Innovate your product. Innovate your marketing. Innovate your customer care. It would force your business to move forward, to always be looking forward.

I’m not suggesting that companies freely share their product ideas. You still closely guard company secrets like the formula for Coca Cola. What I’m talking about are business processes. For example, how to optimize your customer retention. How to improve your shipping department. I believe that the free sharing of this kind of information would spark a tremendous amount of innovation and improvements in businesses that would help revolutionize the way the world does business.