For nearly 15 years, Amanda and Dan Jackson-Miller created custom-made designer dog collars, leashes, and other pet accessories from a 5,000-square-foot building in downtown Albuquerque.
With demand out-pacing their building’s storage capacity, the couple moved in early 2022 into a 9,000-square-foot building near the Albuquerque Sunport.
They did so with the help of experts from New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (New Mexico MEP), a nonprofit that helps manufacturers streamline workflow and improve competitiveness.
The Jackson-Millers met New Mexico MEP adviser Scott Bryant several years ago, when Bryant stopped by Mimi Green, which was named for a pug Amanda adopted in 2007 just as the business was launching. Bryant introduced himself and asked if the couple could use MEP’s assistance.
The entrepreneurs did some training with Bryant about five years ago, and that relationship continued through the move.
Mimi Green began as cottage industry.
“I quilted a piece of fabric and then made it into a dog collar,” Amanda said. “And it just kind of kept going. Eventually, I couldn’t do it by myself. So we got an employee, and then Dan left his job and started working with us. Every year we’ve just grown.”
The business has no storefront and all transactions are conducted online via its website (shopmimigreen.com) and Etsy. Small boutiques in North America and elsewhere also carry products, and Tik Tok, Facebook, and Instagram are prime social media platforms used for marketing.
“We don’t start making anything until there’s an order,” Amanda said. “We don’t carry any stock. Everything is made just for that customer. That is an evolving process: to get an order in, to get it made and get it out.”
To help the company coordinate all those moving parts in a new building, Bryant trained the whole staff in the lean manufacturing philosophy that drives MEP’s approach. Veteran employees drew on their earlier training to quickly grasp new material.
“You make that initial investment and then you can reapply all that stuff to the new personnel, to the new equipment, to the new whatever,” Dan said. “It was nice to make (employees) feel like a team.”
Bryant used a camera equipped with virtual reality (VR) technology to photograph the facility and all steps involved in manufacturing.
“Then the programming and technology stitches it all together,” Dan said. The result is “a real-time view of your facility you can travel through. The combination of tried-and-true lean methods with cutting-edge technology is pretty great.”
Owners can use the VR footage to locate resources and workstations where they need to be to keep production moving seamlessly.
“We’re building that digital map now,” Dan said. “Now we’re going to start making those adjustments.”
The couple has already implemented changes that improved efficiency and accelerated production.
“So instead of taking eight days to get out, things are getting out in six days,” Dan said. “Before, I was over-ordering because I was compensating for a system that didn’t work right. If I was ordering $10,000 of something, now maybe I only order $6,000 or $7,000 because the efficiency in the system has made up for that. And that plays out on a larger scale.”
The couple expects sales to increase, Dan said, “because it’ll allow us to invest where we otherwise couldn’t have. If by employing a better inventory system, I now have labor that I don’t need to invest (in one area), I can put that into customer acquisition or other places that will drive sales.”
Both Dan and Amanda would recommend New Mexico MEP involvement for any entrepreneur who is open to a constructive critique.
“It’s not easy to allow them to show you your limitations and how those can be addressed with these principles,” Dan said. “But it’s always good to learn how to do better.”
Dan added, “Something’s going to work for you, regardless of what business you run. You’re going to find something there that fits you.”
(Since 2007, the Finance New Mexico project has delivered business knowledge and resources to New Mexico entrepreneurs seeking to start or grow a business. For more information about it, visit financenewmexico.org. New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership is a non-profit organization that helps businesses increase profitability and competitiveness through lean concepts and continuous improvements. For more information, visit newmexicomep.org.)