More than 140 years ago Diamond Brand Gear was founded as a fur and feather trading business. In the early 1900s the company changed gears and began producing canvas drop cloths and then eventually morphed into a tent manufacturer around the start of World War I. In the 1940s, the founders’ children moved the company to Asheville, North Carolina, where it resides today. After multiple iterations, the firm, run by CEO John Delaloye, is a thriving 75-person, environmentally friendly manufacturer of personal and glamping tents designed for both outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a dedicated place to escape.
The company has seen much success and advancement over the past couple of years, but until recently had a few obstacles they were facing – stymied growth due to import competition and archaic internal systems.
To help reverse this course, two different companies in the Asheville area recommended that Delaloye reach out to the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), a federally funded program, housed out of Georgia Tech, for assistance.
Delaloye said, “I wanted to work with an organization that had experienced results, but I didn’t want to be buried in paperwork to get there. SETAAC was the perfect mix.”
After meeting with SETAAC, it was determined that Diamond Brand Gear could be a candidate for funding. Once the paperwork was completed and filed and the eligibility was confirmed, Tracy Barth, SETAAC director sent a team member to North Carolina to start discussing strategy and steps to move Diamond Brand Gear forward with their goals. The groups decided the best course of action was to focus on two major initiatives: gaining efficiency by bringing the company up-to-date with their technology and telling the company’s story to align more closely with who they are as an organization.
Through the funding, Diamond Brand Gear has been able to:
- Implement an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system – to access information in real-time, generate important reports, train their new employees faster than ever before, remove silos and establish interconnectivity between departments through information, accessibility, and technology.
- Upgrade Servers and Integrate Cloud-Based Technology – allowing for a more robust, internal solution and the opportunity to create shared files and resources and an automated back-up system.
- Hire a Sustainability Coach – helping them align their vision for the organization with the steps necessary to achieve their desired image that supported their triple sustainability company program: people, prosperity, and the planet.
- Build and Launch a New Website – creating an improved user experience with an eCommerce platform for direct sales and a wholesale portal for partners. The site showcases the story and images supporting their sustainability culture and touting their customer-focused message of “It’s not just a tent. It’s a destination.” The new site also gave Diamond Brand Gear the flexibility to expand their product line, incorporate their blog, and link to their social media.
- Strategically Develop a Social Media Calendar – organizing a consistent social media plan as well as developing content and graphics that promote their company message, driving new followers and sparking additional engagements.
- Sponsor Student Engineers –championing two teams of engineering students, through the North Carolina State University Capstone Program, to explore new product opportunities. The company is now looking into the manufacturing feasibility for these potential products and is exploring the supply chain.
Over the past three years, Diamond Brand Gear has worked closely with SETAAC and its partners to create and execute a plan that has both boosted and supported company growth, through internal process improvement efforts and external marketing and communications resources.
Delaloye said, “The grant hit its target – helping us better contend with offshore competition. SETAAC were great shepherds in our success, and I would highly encourage other manufacturing firms to participate in this program.”
The Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), a federally funded program, housed out of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) at Georgia Institute of Technology, is supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, and provides matching assistance funds to firms experiencing declines due to import competition.