Too Cute Totes Hits an All-Time Company High in Production
“I wondered if it would be worth my time…. I am thankful and excited that this opportunity fell into my lap,” says Scott. “The team has been wonderful to work with to help my small, rural business.”
– Kaeb Scott, Owner, Too Cute Totes
Karen Scott, owner of Too Cute Totes, began over seven years ago designing custom tote bags while maintaining a full time job in HR and continuing her dual role as a military wife and mother of two. Her unique “Too Cute Totes” has become a fast growing direct selling company that allows customers to design their own fashionable totes and purses. This is a female operated, primarily self-funded, rural based manufacturing business headquartered in Fallon, Nevada. All operations are built upon Lean Manufacturing principles; therefore, continuous improvement and elimination of waste were key priorities. Too Cute Totes originated as a cottage industry in 2006, and has grown into its own retail and production location employing 4 seamstresses and independently contracting with 20 sales representatives (Design Consultants) across 11 states. These design consultants host multiple purse parties each month with groups of practical and fashion-conscious women. These women can customize their tote design or pick from an established product list of over 20 designs. In addition, Too Cute Totes offers a full complement of its products via their website and a small retail location adjacent to their production facility.
Karen was referred to NVIE by one of the entrepreneur program instructors at the University of Nevada, Reno. The process started as a class project and evolved into a process improvement undertaking. The NVIE representatives and the class team first completed the site visit to observe Too Cute Totes manufacturing operations. The next steps involved analysis of floor plans and processes looking to detect and eliminate waste. The ultimate goal was to decrease turnaround time for delivery of the final product – the tote. In order to maintain a solid working relationship with the Too Cute Totes sales representatives as well as the ultimate customer it was necessary to get the products to the purchasers far faster than the 400 business hours that was currently the delivery time for production team. During this process, the NVIE and UNR team found an additional efficiency need that would require a financial infusion/contribution.
The goal was to reduce the turnaround time for product delivery and to reduce product waste by streamlining the production process. This involved a plant floor redesign of her production line. Another finding, as this process evolved, was the need for additional equipment and inventory to keep up with the increased unit turnaround. Furthermore, we determined the need to provide better resource tools for the sales representatives as well as enhancements to the web site to reflect these changes in operation.
NVIE participated in the initial stages of the process improvement validating the project and the allocation of resources. NVIE also researched options for access to capital. Further assistance was provided in completing the loan request package for submission and obtaining approval by underwriters from this alternative loan fund targeted for small rural based businesses. NVIE’s Project Manager Kathy Halbardier also assisted the company on their first compliance report to meet the conditions of the loan. Possible future projects are under consideration for contract manufacturing as we grow this industry in Nevada.
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- 80% increase in the number of purses produced monthly from 200 on average to over 360, hitting an all-time company high of 15,000 totes produced in 2014
- Decrease in turnaround time for client delivery from a 4 week wait to two weeks or less for party products to be delivered – 400 business hours down to 160 hours
- Doubled the number of active design consultants from 10 to 20 and created a Sales Representative Success Guide presented in conjunction with the first in subsequent quarterly sales training meetings
- Award of $50K in loan funds which will be used for job creation, website enhancement, improvement of tool kits for the sales representatives (design consultants), equipment and inventory