CALDWELL, ID — After more than 10 years of trusting people in another country to make their products, the owners of Blacks Creek decided it was time to bring production home to Caldwell, Idaho.
Since 1997, the company’s archery bow cases, hunting packs and accessories were made in China. It was a necessary move to stay competitive with other companies that were doing the same thing, Sandy Caster, who owns the business with her husband John Caster, said.
“The labor was really inexpensive in China and the product was actually really good,” she said.
But after a while, that feeling changed, and importing Blacks Creek’s products became more of a problem than an advantage, she said.
The quality declined over the years, while the lead time for products became longer and costs went up, things Caster said her business just couldn’t work with.
In 2010, Caster cut ties with her Chinese manufacturer and moved all of Blacks Creek’s manufacturing back in-house to its Caldwell facility.
“I was so burnt out on leaning on other people to do our product that I went full force on this,” she said. “...We’ve tried to just become self-sufficient to where we don’t have to worry about not getting our product out because we are worried about someone else.”
The process of adjusting back to in-house manufacturing took three years, and this is the first year since 2010 that Blacks Creek will have a full product line to offer.
“The reason it was so difficult is because we had to redesign a product line we’ve had for 17 years,” Caster said. “We had to redesign every product we had to be able to manufacture it internally.”
The company had to find the right people to make the products — it has 10 employees now — invest in new equipment and figure out ways to become more efficient.
Blacks Creek will mark its 20th anniversary in 2014 with a U.S.-made product line that Caster said is their best yet. To differentiate its new product, the company created a new label, Remedy 7 by Blacks Creek. About 10 years ago, the company licensed with Mathews, a bow manufacturer, and has designed cases to go with Mathews’ new Creed XS bows for 2014.
“You can accessorize and personalize our products to match their product line, which has helped us immensely, because it’s a real niche market,” she said.
Blacks Creek sells its products to about 1,200 dealers nationwide and Caster said the feedback she has received from dealers has been nothing but positive.
“They love the concept of being able to purchase a USA-made product and a lot of their customers will only purchase USA-made products, so it’s definitely been a win-win from that perspective,” she said.
As the company continues to grow, Caster sees the manufacturing aspect as a way to diversify through subcontracting. Blacks Creek is tied to the hunting season, and it has to deal with slow times out of the season.
“As we grow, we’ll end up bringing on more sewers and doing subcontracting for other manufacturers,” she said. “That’s what I want to do.”
Since it brought manufacturing back, Caster has heard from other companies who are looking to do the same thing but haven’t figured out a way to make it work yet.
“We’ve had multiple companies come to us and say, ‘How do you it?’ because they’ve not been able to, but honestly, it’s just pulling the trigger and doing it and finding a way,” she said.
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