A nearly $10 million, woman-owned technology company — and one of the few remaining apparel manufacturers in the U.S. — is currently weighing the decision to leave New Jersey for North Carolina.
Or to stay and hire 500 more people.
So said Suuchi Ramesh, founder and CEO of Suuchi Inc. in North Bergen.
“If New Jersey can support us with some of the costs, this would be a great state to continue to work and build in,” she said. “But we must move quickly, as we currently are bursting at the seams.”
With nearly a dozen dedicated facilities scattered across the region — and unique proprietary technology Ramesh calls “the future of fashion” — Suuchi Inc. is not a company New Jersey can afford to lose.
Earlier this summer, Ramesh won a prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award from EY in its manufacturing category.
It’s easy to see why.
The one-stop shop utilizes automation and a vertically integrated, end-to-end supply chain to source, design, manufacture and ship clothing and accessories for leading apparel fashion brands and companies in as quickly as five days.
“We are a complete techno-ecosystem,” Ramesh said.
Furthermore, nearly 80 percent of its 130 employees — comprised of more than 27 different nationalities — are women.
“I do feel that our combination of diverse skillsets, ages and ethnicities contributes to our positive growth,” Ramesh said.
Where its future growth will be remains to be seen.
Ramesh is a first-generation immigrant from South India who, after studying computer science, moved to the U.S. in 2006 to work in predictive analytics and technology for more than a decade.
It was only when she became frustrated with her own fruitless search for tailored petite clothing that she decided to pursue entrepreneurship.
“When I launched Suuchi Inc. in 2015, I initially focused on using data, technology and a vertical supply chain to create made-to-fit apparel for consumers within days of receiving measurements,” she said.
The skyrocketing growth of her company’s business-to-business sales, however, led Ramesh to quickly and entirely refocus the model in an area she was not totally unfamiliar with.
“When I worked for my most recent analytics company, I scaled the B2B side of their business in the Americas from zero to nearly $30 million in three years,” she said.
That is exactly what she intends to do with her own company.
Suuchi Inc. currently produces nearly 200,000 units per month of women’s, men’s, kids’ and pets’ wear as well as swimwear and accessories for nearly 120 clients, ranging from emerging fashion brands to private-label clothing for retailers, to uniforms for the hospitality industry.
“But only about 40 percent of our revenue comes from traditional manufacturing,” Ramesh said. “Nearly 60 percent of our revenue comes from our services, including sourcing, product development and automation. We also would like to further develop our logistics and drop shipping services.”
It is this merging of the “old with the new,” Ramesh said, that makes Suuchi Inc. successful.
“We are not reinventing the wheel of design and manufacturing, but because we developed a supply chain, which merges our new processes and technology with cutting and sewing, as well as with our aggressive sales strategies, we created a magic formula,” she said.
In addition to the more than 100 machines Suuchi Inc. utilizes to reduce labor time and increase efficiency, Ramesh developed the Suuchi Grid to provide clients with minute-to-minute updates and data analytics directly from the smart shop floor.
“There is nothing like it in the market today,” she said. “But, today, it really is all about speed to market, efficiency and transparency.”
Data is the new oil, Ramesh said.
“With the data we collect over time, for example, we are able to provide better predictive intelligence to our clients the more time they work with us,” she said. “We can use their historical data to guide their future success while also predicting trends based on similar businesses.”
Ramesh also sees the Suuchi Grid as a way to increase Suuchi Inc.’s revenue.
“We want to be able to position this technology as an independent product to help transform the manufacturing industry,” she said.
Without the elimination of jobs, Ramesh added.
“Automating operations will instead make employees smarter and faster at what they do,” she said. “We want people to be able to elevate themselves and their skillsets beyond the sewing machines.”
Suuchi Inc. currently employs mostly locals, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s, as well as in skills from software engineering to cutting and sewing.
Diversity is key, Ramesh said.
“Over time, I have become conscious of the data that shows how, unlike many other fast-growing startups, our culture is good, our retention rate is high and our atmosphere is happy,” she said.
Ramesh said she would like to expand both the apprentice and on-the-job training she and her company provide to the local community via further collaborations with local universities and technical schools.
But even now, some employees are working virtually due to limited space.
“We’ve grown an average of 26 percent month-to-month since our company began operations,” Ramesh said. “We started the company in just 2,000 square feet of space and now we are at around 12,000 square feet.”
In both New Jersey and in North Carolina, Ramesh said she and her team are looking to move into a 120,000-square-foot building, with the goal to vertically double the space over the next couple of years.
“If we stay in New Jersey and receive support from the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program, we also will be committed to hiring 500 more over the next three years,” Ramesh said.
With so many moves to make, Ramesh expects Suuchi Inc. will become a $40 million company in 2019 — and that the company’s innovation will continue.
“We’re also going to be investing in our own research and development lab so that we always are one step ahead of the industry,” she said. “We don’t want to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. just to simply do it the same way they do it in India or China.
“We want to continue applying our different processes and technology to continue to keep profit margins healthy.”
Stay or go? Here are some of the factors behind Suuchi Inc.’s decision
Suuchi Ramesh of Suuchi Inc., a technology-driven apparel manufacturer in North Bergen, recently won one of Ernst & Young’s 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year awards in New Jersey.
But Ramesh, founder and CEO, said she and her company are considering whether to stay and receive support from the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program or to relocate to North Carolina.
“New Jersey’s history in manufacturing and textiles makes it easier to find talent here,” she said. “Furthermore, if we need to source fabric for our customers, we either can source from abroad via our access to the ports or directly from the fashion capital of the world in New York City.
“Other states are attractive, too, of course, so we are constantly comparing.”
Reach Suuchi Inc. at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 551-800-5950.