Immersing Herself In The Manufacturing Process
With the establishment of Motherhouse's first directly-owned store, Eriko and her team had more opportunities to interact with their customers. There were customers who travelled from afar to visit the store, those who mentioned that they would look forward to visiting the store every month, and those who were simply happy to see the team. Every day, through all the encounters with customers, Eriko managed to feel the significance of her work at Motherhouse.
Right about that period of time, Eriko realised the next steps she need to take for the business. In order to realise her vision of creating a "world-class brand with its foundations in developing countries", she needed to improve the product quality of the brand.
Eriko made a decision. "I would like to be more involved in production in Bangladesh. My role still lies in Bangladesh." Devoting a large part of her efforts towards building a production system in Bangladesh also meant that she would spend much lesser time in Japan, where Motherhouse was currently retailing. She would also not be able to accept requests for interviews or lectures. Despite so, as a manufacturing company, the product was still king and Eriko's decision happened naturally.
In the winter of 2007, Eriko crossed the ocean with a one-way ticket to Bangladesh. Upon arrival, she realised that the guesthouse she once stayed in was no longer a guesthouse. As a result, she took up residence above the local office where the local team members worked.
As a first step, Eriko decided to move from a system of developing samples at a factory to developing samples within the team's own sample room. This would let the team concentrate on product development. Although it was a small sample room, it was equipped with the newest tools. Following her decision, Eriko started hiring more team members for the creation of samples. She never imagined that the sample room would help to grow and support the production of Motherhouse on a much larger scale.
A New Factory Born From A Sample Room
When the sample room was first set up, no one imagined that it would signal the beginnings of a production factory. In that room, the quality and design of samples were improved through repeated revisions. However, at the same time, the samples that were created from factories that outsourced production were uncompromising and not an option. It was becoming increasingly difficult to achieve Eriko's ideal product.
Therefore, she began more and more samples in the sample room. Her passion for manufacturing eventually led to the expansion of this room. Despite so, the more Motherhouse focused on sample making, and the more the team improved the quality of products, the wider the gap between the quality that external factories had versus the quality that Motherhouse demanded. As such, the sample room was used not only for making samples, but also for the production of a selection of products. This marked the beginning of in-house production for the brand.
Gradually, the number of products being created in-house grew and the scale of the sample room expanded. As the number of team members in the room increased over time, the sample room effectively became Motherhouse's own workshop. Within a year of the sample room's launch, the total number of team members, including Eriko, grew to 10. They had no idea that this room would become the baby of their factory.
Continue on to Part 6.