Why you should manufacture locally: highlights from our event with Shinola

More and more businesses are waking up to the possibilities of manufacturing locally.

The benefits of keeping your manufacturing close to home can be great for both your business and the wider world - whether that’s giving back to your community, helping keep traditional skills alive, or focussing on quality goods that last a lifetime.

Many of our Virgin StartUp businesses are proud of their Made In Britain ethos. One such business is Genevieve Sweeney, whose commitment to reviving traditional knitting techniques and sourcing her quality wools in the UK is at the heart of her premium knitwear brand.

At the Apple Store in Covent Garden, Genevieve was joined by Jaques Panis of American brand Shinola, and Virgin StartUp mentor Dessy Tsolova of Utelier for a special event – Makers and Mentors – to talk about design, quality manufacture, and why startups should keep it local. Shinola are a Detroit-based brand that create everything from watches to bicycles, but with a love of long-lasting yet modern design at the core of what they do. And Utelier bring brands together with the contacts, manufacturers, and suppliers they need to build a business that’s true to them.

Here are the top tips from each speaker.

Genevieve Sweeney, Genevieve Sweeney Limited

  • Manufacturing in Britain means short lead times, and the ability to react quickly – you can sort out problems there and then.
  • Brand awareness takes a long time to build, so be prepared to invest time in creating and maintaining this.
  • Ensure you factor in delays and ensure they won’t affect your business.
  • It’s really important to think about your profit margins, especially when creating high-quality pieces at comparatively small volumes.
  • If you’re in the UK, meet your manufacturer face to face so you can build a relationship with them.
  • Mentoring can provide a much-needed different point of view, which is especially useful when you’re starting out.

Jacques Panis, Shinola

  • Shinola was founded with a mission –  bringing jobs that add value to people’s lives, and creating American-made goods that last a lifetime (literally – their watches have a lifetime guarantee). Keeping this ethos at the centre of everything they do is core to the brand.
  • When you’re starting up, any penny you can spare should be put back into the business.
  • A product with a story is going to resonate with consumers on a global level – know your story, and tell it well.
  • Make the change, and be one of those disruptors – don’t let people walk all over you.
  • When people buy their food they like to know where it’s come from, for example which farm produced this milk. It’s the same with products. Give the customer the story behind how it was made. Rather than focussing on the one customer wearing the watch, we like to highlight the hugely skilled makers who make these products.

Dessy Tsolova, Utelier

  • After realising that there was nothing that brought together manufacturers, suppliers and other important contacts for startups, Utelier decided to create this platform and make the change.
  • Mentoring is a brilliant thing for entrepreneurs to do – seeing the fruits of your advice in work is rewarding.
  • There’s more than one way to launch a brand or business – no two startups are the same. Know your customers, and listen to your gut.

Photo credit: Chatter Bags

Get the Virgin StartUp Business plan