Schern was working for Gura Gear, a maker of high-end camera bags, when he took it on himself to design the messenger bag that spawned Ogden Made, an offshoot that focuses on handcrafted messenger bags, totes and sleeves for laptops and tablets. "He really enjoyed sewing and the creativity that came with that," says Hamilton, the company's vice president of operations.
It took about six months to get that first messenger bag designed how Schern wanted it. But as soon he did, Ogden Made launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the capital needed to make it a viable business. "We funded in two hours and exceeded our goal by almost $14,000," Hamilton says. "Kickstarter is a great tool to get funding and introduce your product to the market."
The bags begin with an idea that an employee sketches on whatever happens to be handy. Then a paper model is built before the concept is sent to the sewing machine. All products are made in Ogden by artisans who sign each bag they make. "It's a nice way for our customers to have a connection with the person who made their bag," Hamilton says. "We get thank you notes all the time."
Ogden Made sells about five messenger bags a week, and Hamilton sees the potential for the business to grow, especially since it acquired the assets of camera bag maker Tamrac out of bankruptcy last year and relocated the company's operations from California to Utah.
The company also hired Parker Lichfield to focus on marketing and development, as well as designing products. Lichfield, who owns the handcrafted leather goods business Stock & Barrel Co., has created a backpack and some duffel bags that will be introduced soon. "He has great design experience," Hamilton says.
Challenges: Hamilton says the company has been able to draw from the Ogden community's depth of sewing experience to find employees, but attracting enough of the right people is still a challenge. "Our team has been folks who have been home sewers," she says. "It's a change in thinking for them. They can't just spend a bunch of time on one project. We only have one member who has production experience."
She also says that competing with manufacturers who use labor from Asia makes keeping pricing competitive difficult. "U.S. manufacturing is still attractive, but you have to be pricing your product in a way that it's still competitive in the market," she says.
Opportunities: Ogden Made's opportunity lies in its ability to appeal to customers who are looking for craftsmanship in the products they buy. That comes in the form of developing new products to broaden the company's assortment of offerings.
"Our opportunity is to reach out and find the customers who really appreciate high-quality craftsmanship and find U.S.-made products compelling," Hamilton says. "We live in a great mountain town here in Ogden, so we use our products all the time. We develop things we really like to use, and connecting with customers for us means being authentic and open and willing to talk about what we're doing through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest."
Needs: The rapid growth of Ogden Made's main fabric supplier in California has created some quality issues, so the company is looking for other outlets to provide materials.
"Hopefully, they will work through their hiccups in the next couple of months," Hamilton says. "It hasn't really impacted us greatly, but we haven't had some colors available because the fabric hasn't been right, and we've had to send it back. We probably do need some more redundancy in the supply chain."