Contract sewing and manufacturing services
Growing up in Colorado and spending many seasons backpacking in a variety of conditions, Camper fell in love with the all-season comfort provided by down sleeping bags. When he decided to start his own manufacturing company in California, his intention was to mimic that property in a down comforter.
However, things didn't go quite to plan. "I quickly realized that you needed special equipment for working with down," Camper recalls. "I didn't have that equipment or the money to buy it at the time. So, instead, I started taking on sewing projects here and there. Today, we sew pretty much everything except clothing."
Camper, along with his wife and their son (when not in school), provides contract sewing services to a diverse range of clients across the U.S. Working from their 1,700-square-foot shop, the trio have manufactured leather bags, wallets, and watch straps. They've produced iPhone, iPad, and laptop cases along with backpacks and duffel bags. They've also sewn products for the military and law enforcement.
"We've done so many different things, I think I've forgotten more of them than I remember," Camper says. "Google has hired us for some projects that required sewing, and we regularly work with another company owned by Boeing."
He notes that his company's ability to satisfy such a wide swath of manufacturing needs is due to his investment in additional equipment -- including die cutters, automated webbing cutters, and leather splitters -- as well as his willingness to take on whatever his customers throw at him.
"We're able to do on a smaller scale what a lot of the larger companies are doing," Camper explains. "They require large minimum order quantities, but we've scaled it and streamlined it so we can offer the same services and smaller minimums to the people who can't afford to order 1,000 pieces."
He says that simplicity is a key feature of the Sleep in the Clouds manufacturing process. "Anytime we can make things simpler to manufacture, it equates to a lower cost for our customers and, in turn, for their end users," Camper adds.
Though he says that 2019 was a slow year for the company and they saw sales falter a bit, 2020 is shaping up to deliver 15 to 20 percent year-over-year growth.
"I was concerned those first few weeks of the lockdown," Camper continues. "Everything came to a sudden halt. But then calls started rolling in with projects for masks, gowns, and things like that. We've been doing really well ever since."
Challenges: Camper says that finding the right customers and the right jobs has always been a challenge. "We get a lot of inquiries from startups," he explains. "And anyone who has ever dealt with startups will understand when I say that sometimes there are jobs that almost cost you more than what you make from them. We've had people come in with an idea who think that if they aren't happy with the product, they should be able to return it and get their money back. But that's just not how it is. There is research and development with any new product, and that cost needs to be budgeted into their expenses."
Opportunities: Camper says that continuing orders for branded personal protective equipment (PPE) are his biggest opportunities at present. "Sometimes you don't know what an opportunity will bring until you grab it," he adds.
Needs: Camper notes that Sleep in the Clouds needs a larger manufacturing space. "We're in a complex with side by side spaces and we actually took on another two or three years ago," he says. "We're at its limits now too and there's no more room to expand."