Published on: May 28, 2015
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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
I was listening to a story on National Public Radio's Marketplace the other day that I think teaches a valuable lesson about how to compete in tough times.
The story concerned a Rhode Island jewelry factory that was opened in 1966, and that for years made jewelry for a number of companies and brands. That made it part of what, for Rhode Island, was a robust industry - during the 1980s, the state produced an estimated 80 percent of costume jewelry made in the U.S., and Bulova once had a factory there that employed more than a thousand people.
But the industry has been hit hard by outsourcing and recession, and the state has lost more than 80,000 manufacturing jobs. I think it is fair to say that those jobs are not coming back, and so government and industry have to work together to find a solution that will help revitalize the economy there.
However, at this particular factory, the news is good. Very good, in fact. It is now run by the founders' daughters, and it has transitioned from a business that made jewelry for other companies to one that makes jewelry under its own brand name - Alex and Ani. Annual revenue is in the neighborhood of a quarter of a billion dollars, and co-owner Carolyn Rafaelian is resolute about keeping the jobs there, about making the pieces by hand as much as possible, about being true to a very American origin story.
I'm actually a little familiar with Alex and Ani because my wife and daughter both love their designs ... I've actually been in Alex and Ani stores, and done some shopping there.
It is such an important lesson. To succeed in any business, you can't just be selling stuff that anyone can sell. You have to find your differential advantages, whatever and wherever they happen to be, and exploit them to the fullest ... and constantly be on the lookout for the next one.
This is a battle that never ends, and in the end, there aren't ultimate victories. Just survivors, and the opportunity to compete again tomorrow, hopefully by telling a story that nobody else can tell.
That's what's on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: