A new client is helping Southwest Creations Collaborative expand and move into a new and lucrative niche, the high-end home interiors market.
The Albuquerque nonprofit had contracted slightly when work from an existing client slowed earlier this year, but now it’s preparing to expand into another 30,000 square feet adjacent to its facility at 1305 4th St. NW. That will allow the company to pursue similar contracts in the high-end interiors market, said Susan Matteucci, founder of Southwest Creations.
The nonprofit employs about 35 women and offers domestic production and manufacturing services for wholesale and retail businesses. Its goal has always been to become self-sufficient. With projected revenues this year of $1.3 million, it’s well on its way, Matteucci said, with 85 percent of costs covered by the revenue it generates.
On a recent morning, employees were busy working on bedding for its newest client, Designers Guild, a London-based company that designs and manufactures fabrics, wall coverings, bed and bath soft goods, furniture, fragrance and home accessories.
Its bedding products are sold at high-end boutiques such as Scandia Down and Gracious Home, said Kim Heidenberger, managing director of Designers Guild Bed and Bath, a licensee of Designers Guild. Heidenberger moved to Santa Fe from Georgia two years ago, where she had a sewing company, and she was looking to bring the work closer to her.
She liked the social mission of Southwest Creations. Matteucci launched the nonprofit in 1994 to create a business that would empower low-income women. The organization provides on-site daycare and adult education, including GED and English classes. It also has a health education program and partners with schools and parent advocacy groups to encourage employees’ involvement in their children’s education.
But Heidenberger also raves about the work it has done for her company so far. She toured the facility prior to inking a deal and saw many of the women working on intricate mosaic glass installations for artist Erin Adams.
“You could just tell the attention to detail was there,” Heidenberger said. “The work facility was immaculate. They listened to everything I said, from the quality, to how to make it. I had no worries at all.”
Many companies are looking for artisan-quality handwork that they can’t get offshore in the quantity and quality they need, Matteucci said.
“Our ability to offer more than one component of a production process is creating a niche for us,” she said.
The nonprofit is already using part of its expanded space for its work for client 3-Form, based in Utah. Crocheted yarn made into a web of lace by a women’s cooperative in Mali comes to Southwest Creations, where employees dip it in starch and carefully crimp it by hand to produce a consistent web-like product. It will then be embedded by 3-Form into resin for use in doors, tables and furniture.
Southwest Creations is talking to two more companies in New Mexico about doing work, which would include jewelry and picture frames. A potential international client is in the wings that would bring more high-end bedding production, and Heidenberger said she wants to add two more licenses to her own business. She plans to contract with Southwest Creations for that work.
The nonprofit is also just starting an initiative to expand its Buena FE (Familias + Escuelas) program into the business community. The idea is to give employees protected leave to get them involved in their children’s education, said Andrea Plaza, program director. Southwest Creations is researching how the concept is being employed around the country and is looking at how Buena FE could be a model program that businesses could adopt as a benefit for employees.
Plaza said Southwest Creations has found that the program improves employee turnover and commitment to work, and reduces absenteeism.
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