Ok, well I have to admit I was completely unrealistic when I decided back in March that I would write an entry in our production diaries once a week. That lasted for a month. And it’s been TWO MONTHS since I’ve updated you all on what’s going on here! Wow! New resolution – I’m going to write one of these a month.
Since April, literally everything has changed! For one, it’s OPEN DOOR WEATHER! Which is truly amazing because we’ve never had a space in which we can do this – it’s glorious.
We’ve had a lot of changes to our sewing staff this spring. Hiring has been a big and challenging project and a time consuming one, but we feel like we’re in a really good place for now. Me (Mallory) and Sarah were the main sewers for a bit there during a personnel shift which was pretty grueling, but we haven’t sewn a single product in a month which feels HUGE. We were really drowning there for a minute, trying to do our real jobs and make everything for you to buy. We even taught Olivia how to sew! Dire times.
But our team is truly on a roll now. Vicky has become an absolute master of attaching collars and her improvement in timing and quality is remarkable – she came on our team full time 3 weeks ago and it immediately became clear that she is organized AF which we really needed. She’s also hilarious and an excellent observer of her surroundings.
Our space got completely reorganized (again) and we brought Olivia’s workspace upstairs so all the computers and desks are there and the ground floor is completely reserved for production. We had to make a lot of room, because (drumroll) WE GOT FANCY NEW MACHINES!! I’ve been laughing about the fact that I started this with a $100 sewing machine and now we have like $50k worth of sewing machines which is just wild to me. Mountain-bike apparel company Kitsbow had an incredible NC based factory, but sadly the recently closed their business. But that gave us an opportunity to give their machines new life! With these new machines, we could truly make 100% of our products in The Youniverse with the right staffing.
Here's one of said machines – a flatlock.
They make the flat sporty seam that’s on nearly all of our products (think Treasure Dresses, Leggings, Shorts). The machines are absolute beasts and super intimidating (in addition to being massively expensive) so we’ve held off on acquiring them, but I’ve dreamed of owning one of these since my basement-dwelling days.
If you didn’t know, my first ever ‘studio’ that I sewed clothes in (in 2016) was a windowless, toilet-less basement underneath a sawmill that I rented for $150/month. My husband tied a rope from my workspace to the exit door so that if there was a fire and I couldn’t see from the smoke, I could crawl on my stomach to the exit while following the rope. Pretty wild to think that was 7 years ago!
But now we have 2 of these fun machines! In true ‘winging’ it fashion, we thought we could just plug them into the wall like our other machines, but in fact they run on 240V power (which our unit doesn’t even have) and air compressors. So we’re learning lots about all of this (thanks Jen from Alpine Fit). Needless to say, they are not running yet but by the end of July they will be and we plan to have them making something sellable by the end of the year. We’ll have to put in a lot of time on training and understanding them, but Sarah is stoked to take on the responsibility.
We also got this nifty machine (it’s a serger with a cylinder arm!) that’s just for attaching collars! It’s going to be soooooo fast and awesome.
Thanks to Sarah’s late night Youtube browsing, we now have a really incredible AI production tool for efficiency – an apparel production app! Like how perfect is that?! In the last week, we ditched hand counting and sheets of paper and tiny timers that manually kept track of how long it took to do each operation and went digital. Each sewer keeps a smartphone or tablet at their station, and the device measures the vibration of the sewing machine to determine how long it takes to sew each step. With simple taps of the screen, product can be counted and passed/rejected and all that data goes to the backend of the platform where Sarah can check in on how timing is improving, production issues, how long it takes to thread the machines, and so much more data than we even know what to do with. It’s incredibly cool.
For a while there we felt so behind. We WERE so behind. Full transparency, we were launching product before we were actually done sewing it – we could not seem to catch up. But right now? We’re AHEAD! In fact, this week we’re wrapping up most of our production for our next drop which is a month away. Big spoiler here: it’s a new color of the bestselling tee of the summer. Being ahead has eased so much stress which is great because we have a BIG fall coming up – we’re making lots of things for our October and November drops AND we have to get our new machines up and running too. But these air compressors are going to be loud, and right now we operate out of one big space with no walls and no private offices. Focusing has been a little tough with all the vibrancy of our team and workspace now so AirPods are imperative.
A TEDx talk I gave back in January finally made its way to Youtube (you can watch it here)! We made popcorn and watched it as a team on the projector screen (aka our diy painted wall) and it was really sweet to watch it all together.
Yesterday, the Missoula Regional Director from one of Montana’s Senators’ offices came by to see what we’re doing which was super cool. It was fun to give him a tour, show him how we make clothes, and learn all about the important work he does to make our state an awesome place to live and work.
Anyways, we’re off to spend the rest of the day doing our Q3 planning meeting as a team which will be really fun but also really exhausting. For the next 3-4 hours we’ll review what worked and what didn’t work about Q2 and figure out what we’re biting off for the next 3 months in order to hit our 2023 goals. Thanks for reading all of this, you’re awesome.