As more brands reshore their manufacturing, Shon Simon says business is booming for her wholesale blank apparel and contract manufacturing company.
Motivational speaker Denis Waitley once said, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.” This mantra has shaped the transformation of Simon’s career from successful makeup artist to failed fashion designer and now to founder of one of the fastest-growing independent, woman-owned manufacturing companies in California.
“I was a celebrity makeup artist for 15 years,” Simon says. “I started an online store because I wanted to create another stream of income for myself. In our first year we did very well, so I decided to invest in creating my own [clothing] designs instead of buying wholesale.”
Simon sunk $50,000 into her dream and lost it all.
“I went from designing straight to production, and I missed a lot of steps in between,” she explains. “When I received my completed products, the sleeves were too long. The legs were too long. The armpits were too tight. I couldn’t sell them.”
Instead of giving up, Simon set out to learn where she went wrong. She found another manufacturer to mentor her and fell in love with the manufacturing process.
“That frustration I felt in losing my money became an obsession,” Simon says. “I became obsessed with turning nothing into something and decided to start my own manufacturing production company so that no other new designers would have to go through the hardships I went through.”
She had just launched her new venture when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. “The business was going under,” Simon recalls. “But I was dead set on figuring out a way to stay afloat and keep my entire team without letting anyone go. When I prayed about it, I got the answer to make masks.”
Simon says this intuition came to her in December of 2019, before SARS-CoV-2 was on the average American’s radar and long before the nationwide shutdown.
“Business was highly effected by China,” she explains. “We could not get ahold of cotton or buttons. The cost of thread had tripled. And a lot of the designers and brands [we were working with] were backing out and cancelling production orders.”
Simon maxed out all of her credit cards and used every dime she had to begin manufacturing masks. “We were sitting on thousands of them and only made about $400 from December to March,” she says. “But when the CDC said for everyone to wear masks, a lot of big corporations came to us. We sold masks to FedEx, Chick-fil-A, Amazon, UPS, you name it.”
At one point, her company was manufacturing 35,000 masks a day to keep up with demand. “We were able to keep four other manufacturing companies afloat as well because we had so much business,” Simon adds.
Today, masks only account for a small portion of Shon Simon Co.’s sales. Instead, she’s focusing more on wholesale production of blank leisurewear and contract apparel manufacturing in her 6,000-square-foot facility.
“We offer 100 percent cotton joggers, t-shirts, and hoodies,” Simon says. “We work with a lot of streetwear brands and companies that buy our blanks in bulk and customize them by adding their branding. We’re nationally and internationally known for our blanks.”
Shon Simon Co. is vertically integrated, so they also offer design, pattern making, sample building, fabric sourcing, and full-product contract manufacturing to other designers and brands as well.
“We’ve worked with Guess Jeans,” says Simon. “We’ve made clothes for Drake. We worked with Oprah for her t-shirts for her voting initiative. We’ve been really blessed to have some of the opportunities that we’ve had.”
Simon says her business is booming as more brands search for ways to manufacture on U.S. soil. She is forecasting between $6 million and $7 million in revenues for 2021.
Challenges: Managing rapid growth is Simon’s biggest current challenge. She launched Shon Simon Co. from her house before moving into a 1,500-square-foot office space, then a 2,600-square-foot-space, and finally the company’s current location — all in only a year and a half.
Opportunities: Giving back is important to Simon. When her company generated $2 million in revenue from mask sales during the early days of the pandemic, she took the opportunity pay it forward and help others in tangible ways.
“We put an announcement out on Instagram and said ‘Hey, who needs their bills paid? Who’s losing their job?'” says Simon. “And then we literally used cash apps and PayPal to pay people’s rent, insurance, car payments, student loans. We provided food for moms with big families. A lot of kids were transferring from school to home, so we bought computers. It was just a really beautiful situation to be able to give back during a time when it was very much needed.”
Needs: Simon says that because of the company’s rapid growth, they will soon be at a point where they will need investors. She also plans to hire more staff in the future.