We’re chatting with Deskpass member, Stephanie Hurrell of Maker’s Row today, an online marketplace connecting American manufacturers and product-based businesses. Having worked with fashion brands like Alice + Olivia and Alexander Wang, Stephanie’s career has taken her from New York to Singapore and back again.
Scroll below for the full interview, where Stephanie shares insight on what brands are looking for in a manufacturer, the coolest designs that have crossed her desk and what a typical day as a product developer looks like.
What led you to Maker’s Row?
Before Maker’s Row, I worked with larger designer companies in New York, such as Alice + Olivia. From there, I started working for Alexander Wang, which was just an incredible experience, getting to be behind the scenes and to work in product development.
Later, my work took me to Singapore, so I headed there. I was actually born in Singapore, so I kind of welcomed the posting. I was like “oh, sweet, I get to go home and reconnect with family, so it was really nice.” My family stayed in Singapore three years and then we returned to the States.
Upon returning, I didn’t feel that I could go back to the quintessential fashion corporate scene with a kid because of the long hours. That’s around the time when I discovered Maker’s Row.
What is your role within the company?
I’m basically doing product development for concierge brands. The platform itself connects designers and brands with American manufacturers.
It’s really great what the CEO, Matthew Burnett, has done. He also comes from a product development background and there was one time, while working for Marc Jacobs, where they had a hiccup with an international factory. He needed these goods to get fixed ASAP and he found an American factory to do it. That kind of spurred the idea of bringing manufacturing back to the States.
So he set up Maker’s Row. As of today, we have almost like over 20,000 American manufacturers on the platform. It’s truly amazing. The caliber of factories is really great. I’ve been with the company for about a year now and I basically work really closely with both the brands and the factories to facilitate introductions.
What do you enjoy most about your role within the company?
So far, the platform has had a very nice response from both the brand side and the factory side. For the factory side, they really just want to be out there. A lot of people still think that they have to manufacture overseas and that’s not the case.
There are two tiers of memberships at Maker’s Row. As an ‘Essentials’ brand, which is a lower tier, they get access to the platform; they can search for their own manufacturers and reach out to 100 if they want to and can dive deep on their own.
For the “Concierge” brands, they have a phone consultation with me. During that call I find out what their development needs are and from there, I recommend 3-5 options that would be best. It’s a little less overwhelming to brands and I really enjoy helping people from the beginning stages and then hearing a few months later that they’re in production and coming out with their products soon.
Are their tiers of factories as well? Are they vetted?
Yes, there are different tiers for factories. The highest tier is what we consider ‘preferred factories’ and there are maybe around 40 of them. These are the factories that have been very well vetted. We’ve had phone calls with them and many, we’ve met in person. Because there is higher visibility for these factories and they receive direct concierge brand referrals, it comes with a higher membership fee.
What are some benefits for brands who decide to go with an American factory?
One benefit is that emerging designers are not faced with high minimum order quantities. With international factories, it’s usually necessary to commit to numbers in the thousands.
With many of the factories on Maker’s Row, the minimum numbers are lower. You can produce a total of five bathing suits at some places; of course, the price will reflect that low number. For most of the American factories their minimums are around 25-200 pieces, which is pretty phenomenal.
Another benefit is being able to visit the factory without hopping on an international flight. For a lot of brands, they have a phone consultation with the factory first, and then go there to meet with the team in-person. A lot of brands are proud to say that they manufacture in the U.S. It heightens the value of their product.
Communication is also key. Pricing is always going to be more than international, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how affordable it still is for a lot of factories. That, plus the flexibility in terms of production numbers and sourcing materials.
Any fun trends or unique products you’re seeing in the queue?
We’re working with one influencer who is not only creating her own clothing line, but also her own fabric, which is super unique. She’s now working with a factory she found on Maker’s Row who is going to print her fabric, print it and then they’re going to make a series of really cute womenswear pieces together.
When I first started, there was one month when it was all pet accessories. Everyone wanted to make collars and leashes. They were ultra cool, with leather and studs and they wanted it to be made with sublimation print and digital printing and all these cool techniques.
We actually have some really awesome brands on the platform like Rebecca Minkoff and Mara Hoffman. Then, we have the new, emerging brands and those are the ones I work with most.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’ll have maybe two or three concierge calls throughout the day. A lot of these brands are doing fashion apparel, so womenswear, menswear, a lot of swimwear and athleisure is big as well. We’re also seeing a lot of leather bags and some shoes. Furniture is pretty popular, too.
It’s different every day. For example, we have a designer who is creating personal saunas for women made of wood. It took us a while to source a factory for her. Initially, I thought, okay, I’ll reach out to furniture manufacturers. As it turns out, they were like no, we only make large pieces like wooden tables. We ended up finding someone in Maine (where the designer, Kit Maloney, is also based) who is a terrific woodworker and a perfect fit for Maloney’s product.
I often stay in touch with the brands during the whole process. It really depends on how involved they want me to be. Sometimes, we look at sketches and if they need marketing or branding advice, I pass that on to Embark.Live (another project we are working on), where they can find an expert.
Tell us more about Embark.Live.
While connecting with brands at Maker’s Row, our CEO noticed that many clients had questions outside of just product development – they needed help with other topics such as legal advice, accounting, branding and marketing. We wanted to follow a similar model as Maker’s Row and help facilitate connections between clients and top-tier experts, not just in fashion but any kind of business.
Embark.live is a content-driven marketplace that connects entrepreneurs to business category experts. The platform focuses on short format video as the future of recruiting – giving experts exposure and allowing potential clients to get to know an expert prior to hiring.
It is a space where experts can share their experience with entrepreneurs & startups through short video tips. In return, we make it easy for clients to book a consultation with experts and pay them for their services. In addition to connecting with clients, experts also receive exposure through live events, which include open office hours and panel discussion. We are excited to launch in May!
What are some of your favorite Deskpass spaces?
My team is fairly new to Deskpass but we’ve really been enjoying it. We kind of wanted to have a social work experience, and Deskpass has been awesome for that.
We really like Camp David, as well as Cubico in Soho and the New Work Project and The Yard in Williamsburg. We want to try them all and return to ones that have a studio space or an events type of space for us to hold events, which we will be doing for Embark.Live.