Name: Darn Tough Vermont
Location: Northfield, Vermont
CEO: Ric Cabot
2009 Revenue: Between $10-12M
Manufacturing: Northfield, Vermont
Darn Tough Vermont produces all-weather performance socks at its mill in Northfield, Vt. The company’s product line includes activity specific socks that range from hunting, hiking, and running to skiing, biking and military socks.
Click through the slides as third-generation sock maker and company founder Ric Cabot shares the company’s story.
Q: What factors did you consider when deciding to manufacture domestically?
A: Our mill has been a staple of the Northfield, Vt., economy for three generations. The people in this area are highly-skilled and experienced at what they do. Having management and manufacturing under one roof allows us to provide hands-on guidance and better decision making with regard to product and design. We know quality when we see it, and working in the same building gives us greater quality control. Manufacturing here under the same roof also allows us to offer a quicker turnaround and entry into the market. It all comes down to quality, which is why I am always telling people, “Nobody ever outsourced anything for quality.”
Q: How has domestic manufacturing influenced your organization?
A: It’s nice that the people who are designing, marketing, manufacturing and packaging our products are all under one roof. We all talk to each other daily and it creates a culture of people brought together for a common purpose. The people in the mill are proud to see their hard work being so well received by the outdoor and military communities. This pride in their work makes them more committed to their job, without this commitment from our management and mill employees to producing a superior product, we would probably not be where we are today. In fact, I know we wouldn’t be.
Q: What is one of the biggest challenges to growth as your company moves forward?
A: We are always up against the challenge of competing against companies with much cheaper products because they outsource their manufacturing. Many people are under the impression that producing a product in the U.S. is just too expensive; that it can’t be done. Darn Tough is proof that it can be done. People need to think about quality first, and then about price. There is too much focus nowadays on offering things for the cheapest price, and what the consumer is left with is a bunch of cheaply-made products that don’t last. Hence the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” Another big challenge is the shrinking number of domestic suppliers, who we depend on for our yarns and other materials.
Q: Where is there opportunity in the market for your products?
A: The opportunity in our market is quality. We’ve been told many times that the performance sock market is too crowded. When we discussed starting a performance sock brand, people told us it wouldn’t make it; they said the market was over saturated. But we always say, “It’s crowded in the middle.” Our relentless commitment to quality has helped us ride to the top, above the others. It’s simple. You build the best and people take notice. And guaranteeing our product for life tells people that we aren’t kidding; we stand by our claims. There’s always room for improvement, even with socks. We are dedicated to staying in the forefront, which is why we recently took delivery of the world’s most advanced seamless knitting machines. Seamless socks are our next frontier. When something else comes along to help us make even better socks, we’ll be on it.
Q: What is your company doing to promote domestic manufacturing?
A: Trying to spread the word as much as possible, in the news and among other businesses and entrepreneurs People need to know that it can be done and it is the best way to go if quality is your number one goal
An in-depth look at small businesses that are choosing to keep their business in the states and what that means for their bottom line.