Elegant Stitches Finding Their Way with Contracting to Expand and Scale a Multigenerational Family Business

Father and son duo pose for the family business

In 1997, Elegant was founded by two Ghanaian immigrants who began from the basement of their home until Alfred Enchill was able to steadily save enough capital from his U.S. Postal Service job to fund their first storefront in Downtown Pittsfield. 

Now, 26 years after the company first opened their doors, Elegant Stitches is a custom embroidery and screen-printing company that provides custom apparel and promotional products to clients, and their primary services include embroidery, screen printing, patches, cut and sew, and promotional products such as pens, bottles, mugs, stickers, and lanyards.

Working with low margins and searching for consistent buyers and loyal clients -- business development is a continuous challenge in the promotional products and apparel industry.  After persevering through the early economic challenges and even surviving an arson fire in 2004 to their building, Elegant Stitches has established itself as a reliable supplier in the region with an excellent reputation.     

Apex Accelerators positioned the Enchills for government contracting success
The next step for Alfred was positioning his business to be able to deliver on larger contracts and bigger jobs. As a result of Alfred’s networking efforts – he met Grace Otta, Procurement Specialist with Apex Accelerators (formerly Procurement Technical Assistance Centers) who helped counsel him with the process for getting started in government contracting. Enchill also followed the suggestion of Robert Clark Williams, from the Commonwealth of MA Supplier Diversity Office who visited his facility and recommended him to check out 8(a) certification with the SBA in addition to working with the state agencies. 

In 2019, Enchill worked with a consultant to help him with the application process and was approved for 8(a) certification – but that’s when COVID hit, and all business came to a halt.  Elegant Stitches had to pivot in order to survive and ended up supplying custom PPE to corporate clients, which was a vital source of revenue that kept the company afloat.  The family-business recovered through the crisis after being supported with resources from the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan, and the Business Equity Initiative (BEI). Having the opportunity to receive business coaching from the BEI was a transformative period for the family-business, allowing the team to strategize and execute on a bespoke go-to-market plan. 

Delivering on Contracts and Building a Reputation 
Elegant Stitches since receiving SBA 8(a) certification, has worked with government agencies including the Department of Justice, U.S. Army, and the National Park Service.  Other clients include Greylock Federal Credit Union, Lenco Industries, and numerous county schools as well as Brown University, Tufts University, and Williams College.

In July of 2022 for example, Alfred received an email from the U.S. Army to find out if they had capability to perform a job; Enchill then asked for the RFP and requested a sole source contract once he saw they could do it.  It was the first contract for Elegant Stitches utilizing their 8(a) status, which was fulfilled successfully!

Later Alfred also received an inquiry by the National Park Service to produce 10,000 patches of the National Scout Jamboree.  The job was a small business set aside – a contract a lot of companies couldn’t fulfill that Alfred would also successfully deliver upon. 

Recently, the Enchills also teamed up with Putnam Investments to receive business advisory and mentorship, a strategic relationship connected to them by the Greater New England Minority Supplier Diversity Council.  GNEMSDC has also supported Elegant Stitches in their journey to keep scaling and building their business. In 2022, the Elegant Stitches was recognized as a Tier 1 Supplier of the Year awardee. 

Family Business Bringing in the Next Generation 
Today, with help from Alfred’s son Auric, Elegant Stitches is modernizing its software, equipment, and sales channels to include e-commerce. Auric serves in a business development role helping to support client development and identifying new potential sectors to expand their product and service footprint. 

Elegant Stitches is currently exploring relocation and building a new facility in Pittsfield after outgrowing their current space and demand increasing – they want to introduce more in-house services in order to increase capacity and expand their client-base. The firm plans to introduce cut and sew manufacturing to produce pants or jackets. Customers have also reached out to explore taking on more complex jobs Auric shared, so they are at a point where they want to position the small business to scale and grow to meet the needs of those clients.

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.