Clothier goes domestic
Rachel Weeks, 27, did something radical last year. The CEO of Durham-based School House Inc., which makes high-end college apparel, moved manufacturing from Sri Lanka to North Carolina — swimming against the current of companies moving production offshore. It seems to be paying off. Her company, which sells mostly to college bookstores, anticipates having its first profitable year in 2012.
How did you get started?
When I was at Duke University, I got $20,000 from a car accident. I moved to Sri Lanka after graduation and decided it was now or never. I hired a designer that I found online and contracted with a factory there.
Why bring manufacturing here?
The three visits a year I was making to Sri Lanka at $5,000 apiece, employing a quality-control team, shipping costs — when you added those things up, the difference between there and here was negligible. It’s also dependent on having a higher-end product.
It’s very hard to be cost competitive without a larger profit margin. We’re able to absorb some of those added costs.
Does manufacturing domestically help sales?
I’m not asking people to buy this product because it’s made in America — sport apparel needed more fashion-driven merchandise. I did think this market would be responsive to socially responsible branding.
What do you mean by “socially responsible”?
What I’ve become passionate about is valuing the human capital in the supply chain. In Sri Lanka, we made our manufacturer pay a living wage of $170 a month rather than $60.
Have you done that here?
Forcing that in North Carolina has been tougher because School House is a small portion of these places’ production.
Does being ethical matter to the bottom line?
We are in a new consumer era when people’s money is personal, and they want to buy brands they’re connected to.
Is that message reaching consumers?
We just hired a marketing director a few months ago. We have a long way to go to carve out a brand identity, but we’re starting to do that.
Forbes magazine is sweet on the Raleigh-Cary metro. It recently named A10 Clinical Solutions Inc., a Cary-based health-care equipment and services provider, the state’s most promising company (No. 48 nationally). But that’s only the most recent honor it’s awarded the metro.
No. 4 Best Cities for Technology Jobs, 2011
No. 1 Best Places for Business and Careers, 2011
No. 2 Next Big Boom Towns in the U.S., 2011
No. 2 Best Cities for Young Professionals, 2011
No. 1 Most Wired Cities, 2010
No. 1 Safest Cities, 2010
“I don’t see the need to pay for something I can get for free.”
— Jim Rozier of Raleigh on the Triangle Expressway, the state’s first modern toll road. The 3½-mile stretch opened in December, and the state began charging motorists this month. It will eventually connect Research Triangle Park and Holly Springs.
Source: Associated Press
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK— Basking Ridge, N.J.-based communications company Avaya will add about 135 jobs in four years at its local office, increasing its employment here to about 325. The average annual salary will be $87,704. Durham County’s average is $61,256.
DURHAM— Bruce Karsh, a Duke University trustee and investment manager, and his wife have given $50 million to the school to help pay for undergraduate tuition. About $30 million will go to U.S. students, with the rest for international students. The donation is the largest made by individuals to support financial aid in Duke’s history.
RALEIGH— Bulk TV & Internet will increase its local workforce from 62 to more than 100 over the next year. The company sells DirecTV satellite service and plans to hotels, hospitals and restaurants.
RALEIGH— The Gores Group, a Los Angeles private-equity firm that bought controlling interest in Stock Building Supply in 2009, paid an undisclosed amount for the remaining 49% of stock. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
RALEIGH— Alex Pinchev, president of Red Hat’s global sales, services and field marketing organizations, is leaving the company this month to become CEO of a data-protection software company. Red Hat sells and services the Linux computer-operating system.
CARY— The Internal Revenue Service signed a $6.25 million deal with SAS Institute to use the technology company’s software to detect, prevent and resolve tax crimes. It is unknown when it will be implemented. All 15 U.S. federal departments will now use the company’s software.
TRIANGLE — Triangle home sales increased 12% in October compared with the same month in 2010. Wake and Johnston counties had the highest increases with about 20% and 19%, respectively. New listings decreased 17% over the same period, from 3,102 to 2,650.