Mission Modernize: How One Woman Entrepreneur Is Changing the Manufacturing Landscape
For Suuchi Ramesh, founder and CEO of Suuchi Inc., entrepreneurship runs in the family.
"My granddad was a stellar businessman," says Ramesh. "He started and ran a very successful motorbike company. My father's generation - him and his siblings - tried and failed to hold the same grand growth and the business had to be sold. So I saw both growth and huge failure closely. Having both views helped. Watching the failure helped more."
Ramesh, a self-professed data-nerd with a love of all things fashion, developed the idea for Suuchi, Inc. after emigrating to the U.S. 6 years ago and finding it difficult to come across clothing that fit.
"I am petite," says Ramesh, "So finding clothes that fit correctly was always an issue."
With this challenge in mind, Ramesh came up with the notion to create a fully integrated supply chain for creating small batch apparel tailored for custom size and fit.
"I instantly felt the need to create affordable and efficiently produced custom garments that spoke to both the needs of the customer and manufacturer," explains Ramesh. And she has created a business model that does exactly that with Suuchi Inc., providing a full stack solution that includes everything from fabric sourcing to design, production and drop shipping for brands such as Cintas and Paratodo.
Initially beginning as direct to consumer, Suuchi Inc. quickly jumped to B2B after only three months.
"We realized that the way to create fast, large-scale change in manufacturing and in rapid, yet quality, mass custom apparel was through other businesses," says Ramesh. "The consumer market we've reached through the over 100 brands we work with is much bigger than the consumer market we would have reached through our own brand"
The company, a Women's Business Enterprise National Council certified business, has grown at a rate of 12% month-to-month, with a projected $2.6 million for the calendar year of 2017. Ramesh credits Suuchi Inc.'s accelerated growth to its goal to leverage technology as a way to remain competitive in the industry.
"There is a need to for past-paced and rapid time-to-market clothing items," says Ramesh. "We can deliver affordable custom garments within a few days of receiving an order because of our quick communication and project management process."
All production is done in the U.S., making Suuchi Inc. a more efficient and cost-effective choice for brands than outsourcing overseas, a plus to her business that Ramesh has seen in action.
"My background is data analytics and I love math, so we have been quantifying things from the start," she says. "Pretty much in every case, facilitating design and manufacturing here is far cheaper than outside in China or India. Labor costs in China have gone up 40% in just the last few years on average while the US has been fairly stagnant. Add to that the opportunity cost of lost time, lost sales and quality, and producing here is actually way cheaper."
Suuchi, Inc. pulls from two streams of revenue - the company's 80+ B2B fashion accounts, and proudly, a growing list of fortune 500 accounts. Ramesh put 100% of her every last dollar into Suuchi Inc. with no initial outside funding. As the business grew, however, things changed.
"We did take funding from a bank about three months ago," says Ramesh. "They gave us a small working capital line as well as a line for capital purchases, and it has been phenomenal to have that breathing space."
Like many NYC area startups (and unlike many manufacturing companies), Suuchi Inc. has embraced technology and recognized the need to be data-driven within the project management process, relying on the numbers to fuel decisions. However, unlike your typical startup (notorious for employing a roster of 20-something, fresh out of college grads) most of Suuchi Inc.'s 50+ employees are older. This is why Suuchi, Inc., a company that has only been in business since 2015, is different. The team brings to the table a sense of well-rounded know-how that only those with years of experience can offer.
"Our diversity in culture and age and experience has given us a maturity as a company that few startups have," says Ramesh. "We have a family-oriented atmosphere and all genuinely care about each other. As Suuchi Inc. expands, preserving the culture is a priority. It is absolutely wonderful to be able to provide employment to immigrant women, especially in the later stages of their lives."
Ramesh is not only passionate about creating jobs in the manufacturing industry, but also wants to encourage a new generation of younger, automation -machines-savvy seamstresses. That's why she has launched Suuchi University, a three month intensive training program for both new and experienced seamstresses taking place within the firm's 10,000 sq. ft. facility, with the promise of direct placement upon graduation.
"We provide both "before job" training to make women employable, and also provide on the job training," says Ramesh. "Suuchi Inc has invested in capital machinery: machines that aid robotic manufacturing and advanced manufacturing. So the ladies are not just getting trained in manufacturing, but the manufacturing of the future."
As the owner of such a fast growing company, work-life balance is something that Ramesh is keenly aware evades her. She has accepted, however, that working sixteen hour days, six days a week is all part of the sacrifice.
"I get in at 6:45 and don't leave until 8 or 8:30," says Ramesh, describing her typical day. "Every day is a circus; nonstop and a lot of fun. But I am trying to slowly delegate so I can focus on sales and growing the business."
And what are Ramesh's top three skills for being a successful small business owner? "Perseverance, courage, and knowing your finances," remarks Ramesh. 'When you grow fast, managing your cash flows is everything."