Suuchi Ramesh, a first-generation immigrant from South India, believes strongly in American manufacturing.

She simply intends to modernize it.

Suuchi Ramesh, founder and president of Suuchi, a Women's Business Enterprise National Council-certified garment manufacturer.

Suuchi Ramesh, founder and president of Suuchi, a Women's Business Enterprise National Council-certified garment manufacturer. - ()
 

“We have upended an industrial industry and are catering to a millennial market by adopting fluent, responsive communication and project management from end to end,” Ramesh said. “I firmly believe this is just the start of what will be the norm for everything in the U.S.”

Founded just last year, Suuchi, a North Bergen-based custom garment manufacturer and vertically integrated supply chain for U.S. brands, is projecting $1.3 million in revenue for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The year after, the woman-owned and -operated business expects to bring in six to seven times that.

Suuchi has achieved such rapid growth, Ramesh said, by hiring quality seamstresses and creating innovative technology that allows the company to deliver affordable custom products within five days of receiving an order.

“This country has really helped me to become the businesswoman I am today,” Ramesh said. “It’s wonderful to be able to help other women here who have immigrated later in their lives and allow them to do what they love.”

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Fashion did not always come easy for Ramesh.

“I am tiny, so I would always get clothing custom made,” she said.

Made in America 
Suuchi Ramesh, founder and president of Suuchi in North Bergen, said she expects an industry boom.
“We really do believe that everything is coming back to the U.S. in terms of manufacturing, as well as services, for the fashion industry,” she said. 
Here’s why:

  • International labor costs are rising; they have quadrupled in China over the last 10 years.
  • Instability abroad further raises costs, especially labor.
  • U.S. manufacturers are more willing to process low order minimums than international manufacturers are.
  • “When you add freight, insurance, duty, customs clearance, value added taxes, port security charges, fuel surcharges, warehouse storage and so on. You are paying double what you would have paid per piece to an international manufacturer,” Ramesh said.

She found this to be more difficult when she first emigrated from India to the U.S. for work in 2006.

“I felt this urgent need in the U.S. for a supply chain that could be affordable, efficient and quick while catering to all needs, not only in terms of design, but also in production,” Ramesh said.

That demand, coupled with an undergraduate degree in computer science, an MBA and a career in data analytics that spanned 12 years, encouraged Ramesh to follow in her family’s footsteps some years later.

“My dad and my grandfather were entrepreneurs who started their own motorbike company in India,” Ramesh said. “I had always felt that I had wanted to do my own thing. I just had to wait to get my resident status before I could start it.”

It turned out that fashion entrepreneurship wasn’t that big of a stretch for Ramesh.

“I already understood the supply chain and studied big fashion houses like Macy’s and Kohl’s,” she said. “What I did in the past seems very different, but I don’t think it is at all. We process data to enable fashion brands — analytics is a big part of what we do.”

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Suuchi, a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council-certified, diverse supplier and custom garment manufacturer, is essentially a full-service partner for fashion brands and companies.

An employee sewing garments.
An employee sewing garments.

“Since we are able to do everything in the U.S., we are also able to do it faster, more efficiently and cheaper,” Ramesh said.

Suuchi can take care of everything from sourcing to production development, manufacturing to warehousing and shipping — all from its 6,000 square feet worth of facilities in North Bergen.

“I don’t know if we are competing with other custom brands,” Ramesh said. ”Our business model is different.”

Suuchi currently has three streams of revenue — its main one being the 40-plus business-to-business accounts and fashion houses it partners with, such as Paratodo (men’s), Larae Fashion (women’s), Papergirl (kids’) and Saddle Vest (pets’).

The company also custom manufactures its own brand of women’s apparel, using analytics to determine which of the 400 unique sizes will best fit their customer, as well as specialty apparel for companies.

“One of our biggest clients is Cintas, a billion-dollar company known for providing uniforms,” Ramesh said.

Diversifying Suuchi’s portfolio and hedging its risks has helped the company grow 12 percent month-over-month over the last year.

“Early on, what we sold was not just manufacturing, but also services such as design and project management, which now make up 50 percent of our revenue,” Ramesh said. “We also invested a lot of money into social in the beginning — but if most of your business is B2B, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to be present on social. You just need to cater to a market that is frequently using it.”

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Ramesh hosts an active blog on Suuchi’s website, LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as a vivid Instagram account.

Balancing act 
Suuchi Ramesh, 36, said she doesn’t have much in the way of work-life balance right now. 
“I work 16 hours a day and take one day off a week,” she said. 
While her family lives abroad, Ramesh said she has a “very understanding” boyfriend, a dog, a cat and a fantastic support system of friends. 
“It’s just the nature of where we are right now — I know that’s not sustainable,” she said. “But any company that is growing this fast is going to deal with these kinds of challenges.”

“Urge someone in your business to dedicate their time to marketing,” she said. “I try to at least blog once a week.”

Most of the time, she’s blogging about “Made in the U.S.A.” manufacturing.

“Manufacturing today is no different than any other industry,” Ramesh said. “Every startup has to adopt technology and communicate effectively in order not to fail. Other manufacturers, they run their business the way they ran it 30 years ago. What they really need are younger people, folks that understand data and technology and communications.

“We need more of those kinds of leaders.”

Suuchi employs a team of 35 — many of whom Ramesh said are over the age of 50 or in their 20s, but not so much in their 30s and 40s.

“We are working to change that,” she said. “It’s tough to find talent.”

Women do, however, comprise 90 percent of her team.

“We have extremely capable men on our team, but to be a woman-owned and -operated startup that is growing this fast, we are immensely proud of that,” Ramesh said. “I think we have a clear advantage as women working with designers. I believe we are intrinsically better communicators and are able to have that patience and perseverance required.”

Ramesh has been working with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development to invest in at least 3,000 square feet of additional space and machines, with which to train New Jersey women in sewing and pattern-making for three months at a time.

She has three students as of right now. She is hoping to have at least 20 people in each class every three months and a total of 15 machines on which to train.

Patterns are laid out for cutting.
Patterns are laid out for cutting.

“I have actively started looking for investors,” Ramesh said. “We will need them to continue to grow at our present rate within 12 to 18 months.”

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Ramesh envisions a very clear path to success for Suuchi if she can get it right.

“I hope to have Suuchi studios and warehouses in various states and big cities,” she said. “We can be an employment hub for this industry, because the opportunities have died out. We want to bring them back.”

Ramesh said such expansion, however, will never be at the expense of Suuchi’s impeccable execution.

“We don’t just want to win accounts; we want fantastic reviews,” she said. “The next two years are critical. We need to make sure that we are meeting all the sales that are coming and hiring the right people to accomplish that goal.”

Ramesh anticipates she will employ 60 people by the end of November.

“It will definitely also be important to preserve our culture,” she said. “We are family-oriented, women-operated and support work-life balance. I don’t want to lose who we are.”

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