The Ghost in the Manufacturing Chain

The Ghost in the Manufacturing Chain

Sixteen years ago, owner Cathy Roberts started a custom manufacturing business in her basement in mid-coast Maine. Over the years Pieceworks, Inc.’s services have grown to include manufacturing, assembling, packaging, shipping, and research and development. As Cathy explains to prospective clients, "Our company tailors our services to meet your needs."

In essence, Piecworks, Inc. functions as a ghost in the manufacturing chain, working behind the scenes to fill production gaps for companies and businesses, often serving an integral role in helping growing businesses reach the next level.

Since its humble beginnings, Cathy’s company has moved into its own factory and now boasts a workforce of up to 10 staff who fulfill a critical role in the manufacturing process. Each new contract requires innovation and creativity, which energizes Cathy and her staff to meet challenges that stretch their problem solving skills and creative abilities.

However, with a depressed economy and a drop in larger manufacturing clients, Cathy felt the business needed new direction so a year ago she began meeting with Betty Gensel, Women’s Business Center business counselor. Cathy credits business counseling with helping her redefine the company’s market niche by targeting home-based and microbusinesses that are experiencing growth pains and may lack capacity for and expertise in larger scale production.

In addition to business counseling, Cathy regularly attends the Women's Business Center monthly networking meetings held in Augusta and Farmington. Some of the connections she has made there with other women-owned businesses have led to increased visibility and new clientele. One such client is Judy Tollefson, owner of Judy’s Colors. After speaking with Cathy, Judy found that by outsourcing packaging and shipping of her knitting kits to Pieceworks Inc., she could return to her passion of working with colors designing knitting patterns, and promoting her e-commerce business.

"In general, I have found that some business owners may be nervous at first about having someone else produce their product so I explain our process and the built-in quality control measures," Cathy explains. "Once we both agree it is the right fit, it becomes clear to the owner that by outsourcing, they have more time and energy to create and research new products and markets and work 'on'; instead of 'in'; their business. That's a win-win because it allows business owners to concentrate more fully on the reason that led them to establish their businesses in the first place."

Thanks in part to business counseling, Cathy is now intentionally diversified and flexible to reflect the needs of new, growing, and internet companies for a shift in manufacturing, while she keeps up contracts with her initial customer base of larger manufacturing concerns.

"Cathy Roberts is a good example of a savvy business woman who knows how to respond intentionally to a market niche," business counselor Betty Gensel points out. "Plus she realizes the importance of constant networking, coupled with the need to offer insourcing, which is the growing trend to keep and return manufacturing to the USA."