In manufacturing, you ‘get what you specify’. Even though ‘Made in China’ is generally not synonymous with the same quality as ‘Made in Italy’ or ‘Made in Japan, the country has an exceptional manufacturing base that, when utilized in the right way, can deliver consistently high quality products.
Helen Berg, the founder Charleston Belt, explains how they manage everything from finding the right manufacturer – to getting the product specifications right.
In addition, Helen explains how they leverage multiple sales channels, including Amazon, Google Shopping and B2B sales, to get their product on the market.
Helen, please tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before starting your current business
Before starting Charleston Belt I was an executive in a company that provided data analytics services for healthcare claims. Over my career in “Corporate America” the majority of my former employers were large, multi-national corporations where I did extensive international travel and managed employees and contractors across Europe and Asia.
These experiences gave me exposure to global commerce, and the impact that the Internet-fueled digital transformation has had on global commerce. Some of the biggest impacts that I experienced were opportunities for small, entrepreneurial firms to participate in global commerce and the emergence of “micro-multinational” companies.
What made you choose importing leather accessories?
First, a bit about our product – our mission is to design and produce high quality accessories that capture the essence of outdoor living and the richness of our diverse cultural heritage. We are relentless in ensuring we produce quality, timeless styles that coordinate well with casual and dress fashions for men of all ages.
In addition to our own unique designs, we also produce custom products for specialty shops, country clubs, boating clubs etc.
We use a contract-manufacturing model for our product. Our design team does the creation internally, then we outsource the production.
We are based in the U.S., and actually looked extensively at U.S.-based firms in addition to companies outside the U.S. before making the decision to contract the majority of the work outside the U.S. The primary reasons were their ability to handle the entire process and the production cost.
To explain further, many of our products are hand-made. In particular, our needlepoint belts fall into this category. The firms we work with have hundreds of artisans and can produce the quantities we need in a relatively short time frame.
But a bigger advantage to us is their ability to vertically integrate the process, by doing all of the leather work as well.
The firms we evaluated in the U.S. could each do part of the process, but then we would need to ship the goods between the firms to complete the process. That would have extended the production time and the cost by a large margin.
So we developed a rigid supplier qualification process to find firms outside the U.S. that could perform the work to our high quality standards and also at a time frame and cost that met our needs. Continue Reading →