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Bead Company Determined to Keep Manufacturing in America

Bead Company Determined to Keep Manufacturing in America

Michigan's David Schowalter scoured the country, and eventually the globe, for more than two years on his quest to find an American manufacturing partner.

It turns out the answer was in his own backyard.

The owner of Collegiate Bead Co., Schowalter was determined to produce his company's college beads, sorority bracelets and charms in the United States, but initially was unable to find someone willing to take on the job.

After the Royal Oak, Mich., jewelry company found success two years ago, Schowalter said it became apparent they would need a larger manufacturing partner to keep up with demand.

"As sales began to grow, we quickly outstripped out capacity," Schowalter told BusinessNewsDaily of his company, which offers beads designed to fit the Pandora- and Chamilia-style charm bracelets. "We couldn't ramp up our production quick enough."

Schowalter began searching the country looking for a manufacturing partner , only to come up empty.

"People just didn't understand what we wanted to do," he said.

Eventually, having no other option, Schowalter abandoned his dream of producing his products in the United States and moved the production of his beads to China.

Shortly afterward, he had a change of heart.

"I felt kind of dirty making the stuff in China," Schowalter said, adding he was determined to help create jobs in the U.S., where they are so critically needed.

As a last resort, Schowalter employed the help of a public relations firm to spread the message of the importance of American manufacturing and Collegiate Beads' need for a partner.

Finally, he found a lead in his home state.

This month, Collegiate Bead Co. announced a new manufacturing partnership with Terryberry, a company that specializes in corporate recognition awards, allowing for production to move from China to Grand Rapids, Mich., and Detroit.

"They had the technology we needed," Schowalter said.  "It was a perfect fit."

Realizing his dream of being an American-made company has been gratifying.

"It not only keeps jobs here, it makes jobs here," Schowalter said.

The partnership has already created three jobs locally , with the potential to add 50 more.

Schowalter said Michigan is a perfect fit, since his company uses technology like that of the auto industry to produce its products.

"We use a computer to design the product and automatic milling to produce it," Schowalter said.

A large advantage to manufacturing close to home is that it allows the company to expand its product line at a quick pace.

"It allows us to go from concept to finished product much quicker," Schowalter said.

With his manufacturing concerns behind him, Schowalter said he is now focused on growing the business.

"We want to bring a sense of fashion to the collegiate market," Schowalter said.

Schowalter said growth opportunities for his company potentially include sports licensing agreements with organizations such as the National Football League and the Union of European Football Associations.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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