How the actions of 2017 will shape the future of Burlapper burlap in 2018 and beyond

Posted by Johnathan Skardon on

It’s the first day of the year; it’s cold outside; flashes of green, artificial turf, white lines, and bright-colored jerseys fill the television screen in the foreground. 

The turn of the year is always an exciting time. It’s a chance to reflect on the year that was and an opportunity to look forward to what’s new on the horizon. I, for one, am looking forward to 2018. 

Before I look forward, let’s take a step back. Our company is young, but really young by burlap standards, as burlap (aka hessian) has been sold around the globe for hundreds of years. We just completed our 3rd year of operation. We have learned and done much in this time, and we’re well on the way to perfecting our craft. We understand our products. We understand several of our markets. We’re excited to learn about new markets and opportunities. We’re growing our product mix. We’re getting to know our customers — located in every state in the U.S., Canada, Australia and several European countries — most of whom are buying online. And we see a ton of opportunity. 

We’re still small, but are growing and are determined to be different; bringing useful, quality products to market. We’re listening to our customers comments and feedback, and are designing products and sourcing materials specifically to meet the needs of these markets. Being small equals being lean and resourceful. If we want to introduce a new product, we can make it and begin selling it immediately. It’s the luxury of being small, nimble, and having the right tools for the job.

Speaking of having the right tools for the job, 2017 saw the introduction of several pieces of equipment that allowed us to move the company in a new direction by taking control of the early facets of the manufacturing process — cutting and rolling burlap rolls. Prior to purchasing this equipment, we had been buying pre-cut rolls in 100-yard increments. In the best of circumstances, this was a crapshoot because it was impossible to see what was under the first layer of a burlap fabric roll, and it led to lots of surprises — good, bad and sometimes really, really ugly. 

At times the top layer looked great but the fabric underneath was discolored, poorly cut or seamed together (multiple sections of burlap sewn together to create one continuous piece of fabric) and had to be classified as garden quality, while other times the fabric looked great. The problem was that our suppliers were charging us the same money whether we had all good, somewhat good, or all garden variety fabric. 

Most burlap suppliers are selling products to wholesale growers and nurseries, and these folks are sticking the burlap in the ground to protect root balls on plants and trees. Low cost, not quality, is the first thing on these buyers’ minds. When it comes to garden variety burlap, I have often said, “there’s no such thing as defective product,” and our suppliers certainly treated us that way. Not a single supplier was open to our pleas for better quality burlap. Not one!

Pre-cut rolls greatly limited the widths of burlap that we could buy and sell, so we were forced to focus on the most popular sizes, 12”, 14” and 40” wide rolls that had become our bread and butter. If a customer wanted anything other than 12-, 14- or 40-inch wide rolls, we couldn’t help them.

Adding an industrial slitter and rewinding machine fundamentally changed our business for the better. Not only can we cut and roll burlap to any width up to 72”, but now we can buy burlap by the bale directly from India. Buying burlap by the bale solves a myriad of problems — material quality, product selection, and damaged goods — it allows us to control the manufacturing process from start to finish, and we can develop new products based on the needs and wants of the marketplace.

Our first act in 2018 is installing a new packaging system that will allow us to transition the manner in which we package finished products. What was once a labor intensive process will be partially automated and the packaging will showcase the natural beauty of the products we make, while allowing us to reach a broader audience — hopefully, using a lot less tape! Couple this with continuing to expand our Burlapper burlap product line, and you can look forward to even more useful, eco-friendly, and naturally inspired home decor, kitchen and gardening products. 

In case you are wondering where all this is happening, we believe in the idea of U.S. manufacturing, so we are proud to say that we design and manufacture our burlap goods in Dayton, Ohio, using burlap imported from India. We could easily make our stuff off-shore in China or India — for a lot less money — but, instead, we have elected to lug the raw material to our U.S. shores and take the time and effort to make it here, the right way, with a whole lotta care, pride, and attention to quality and detail. 

We hope that you like what you see!

Who won the football games, anyway?


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