Name: Sea Bags, Inc.
Location: Portland, Maine
CEO: Beth Shissler
Manufacturing: Portland, Maine
Sea Bags, Inc. makes tote bags made from recycled boat sails that are manufacture in-house on Portland’s waterfront or outsourced within Maine for larger orders. The company recently partnered with Sperry Topsider, Angela Adams and Tommy Bahama to provide tote bags and specialty items made out of recycled sails.
Company founder and CEO Beth Shissler shares her story:
Q: What factors did you consider when deciding to manufacture domestically?
A: When my business partner and I graduated there were no jobs in Maine. We, like most folks here, had to leave the state to get our jobs and experience. Further, most of the sewing jobs in Maine have gone overseas. It’s an amazing skill set that has almost been lost.
Q: How has having your product made in America influenced your organization?
A: It has total influence. I understand financially why people outsource; employees and regulations that go with having employees (workers comp, health insurance etc) are expensive. We however, have this great group of people that are creative, educated and skilled. And we believe in our customers who continue to support US (and Maine-Made) products.
Q: What is one of the biggest challenges to growth as the company moves forward?
A: The bottle-neck keeps shifting, I often say that owning a business is like "whack-a-mole." The biggest challenge overall is maintaining our small business charm on the waterfront in Maine while providing a quality product and service that allows us service our larger customers. We have been fortunate to work with some of the best companies in retail and strive at making that effortless for them to choose Sea Bags to offer their customers.
Q: What is the biggest challenge to maintaining manufacturing in America?
A: Staying competitive and adding enough value for the consumer to justify supporting our locally-made product.
Q: Where is there opportunity in the market for your products?
A: There is opportunity everywhere for Sea Bags.Everyone carries a bag of some sort and we hope it’s ours. Hand-made from a recycled material, our Sea Bags are sailed around the world and recycled in Maine. People who carry a Sea Bag will know that it provides jobs to a group of very talented employees on the waterfront in Maine.
Q: What is your company doing to promote domestic manufacturing?
A: We are constantly showing our consumers where and how our product is made. Consumers can walk into our shop and see the product made. It makes a difference for folks to see that. Often our customers will call and say, "Are you the girl in the picture?" We are working with other companies in Maine to develop an Advanced Textile Consortium--we see this as a state-of-the-art cut/sew facility. Lastly, we keep in tune with our customers. I've been fortunate to have the ability to ask some of the best names in the business what it takes for “US Made” to be relevant to them, their stockholders, and their customers.
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.