Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2012

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

Issue link: https://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/91258

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Page 29 of 79

We Mean Business > felt nervous [doing business in another country]. When you watch the news, you understand it from the back end, and you can also make decisions that some businesspeople can't, because they're too local—limited in focus to their own country or state, even their own county. DW: It takes guts to create a company based on style and using materials—wax, scents, fabrics—that you've never had experience with. Was that daunting? MX: My mother always said I was a curi- ous monkey, even though I was born in the year of the goat—I was off by a year. Once, when I was in Mexico City looking at business options, I asked the guy who was taking me around so many questions that he got nervous, like maybe I was a spy! But unless you have all the answers, you can't be the leader. You can try to del- egate, but in the end, the science and the passion will have to marry. If you know what you want, you need to know why you can or can't get that result. DW: You named your company after your first, and current, American home, in Maryland, but you have largely done your manufacturing in Asia. Was that just a cost decision? MX: Te U.S. is one of the most welcom- ing countries in the world, and if you are a mom-and-pop that wants to open a cup- cake store, it's not so hard. But to open a factory, you need many different permits, and from different places, and it gets re- ally tricky. In China, Vietnam, and other countries that are hungry for new busi- ness investment, you can fulfill all of the requirements in one place and start build- ing. But our country has lost that edge. DW: What are the incentives to even try manufacturing here, then? MX: Te U.S. has less bribery than any- where in the world and more transpar- ency in the process. We also have the social compliance—protections for labor, fair pay, environmental rules‚ which are good, and so important. DW: How did you come to join the panel with President Obama? MX: Someone at the White House had read a Wall Street Journal article about 28 DIVERSITY WOMAN Fall 2012 [There is a] big market overseas for Made in the USA. our company and our frustration in opening the factory. Te White House reached out to us and wanted to know our circumstances. Tey were talking to manufacturers who had moved jobs back to the U.S.—what a Boston consulting report has called "reshoring." So we had a long conversation and they invited us to this forum. It was an awesome expe- rience. I stole the limelight, though, by speaking too long! DW: What was the consensus from the other participants? MX: Tey were all pretty big Fortune 20 companies, but everyone had similar reasons for leaving overseas manufactur- ing—rising labor costs, increases in ma- terial costs, and shipping costs. We also talked about having proximity to the best design and research. I brought up something, though, that nobody talks about—the big market overseas for Made in the USA. Chinese tourists come here and want to bring something home, but they look at the la- bel—even in our store in Shanghai—and they ask, "Why is it made in Vietnam?" DW: What do you think the value of that label is? MX: It's about authenticity, and it's amaz- ing how people put authenticity above anything else. Tere is something about Made in America that is very whole- some. In many emerging countries, such as Brazil and India, the U.S. is still about inspiration, hope. It's about preserving freedom and living a natural life with- out depriving the younger generation of clean air and clean water. We export our pop culture, such as Lady Gaga, but imagine the real things that we have not exported that could be [exported] and not necessarily expen- sively either. What I was trying to com- municate is that it's time to move our factories back. DW: What's next for your company? MX: Our number one focus is expand- ing our opportunities. We have 117,000 square feet in our Maryland facility, and we've only occupied 50 to 60 percent of the capacity. Our number two goal is to grow our high-end business to export to Europe and Asia without any style change—they like a similar style there as we do here. Number three, we want to innovate. I'm interested in using diffused fragrances more effectively—like more of a lifestyle statement at home and in ho- tels or public spaces. DW: What books have you read lately that inspired you? MX: I recently read Imagine: How Creativ- ity Works [by Jonah Lehrer], about how creative minds think and come up with solutions. I am always intrigued by how other companies come up with their best ideas in design, and how I can motivate my designers. 3M has a good rule: 20 per- cent of the time, employees should be out of their desks doing creative thinking or going to school. Tey just need to share what they learn, like at a bazaar where they present their creations, and how they came up with them. Tink about those Post-it Notes® that 3M created! I want to have my share of Post-it Note moments, and I'm trying to learn how to cultivate that environment. DW Katrina Brown Hunt, based in San Diego, has written for Fortune Small Business, Smart Money, and the Seattle Times. www.diversitywoman.com

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