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Sponsored by: TD Bank
April 25, 2022

SBA Winner: United Sewing and Design

United Sewing and Design
Top Executive: Mary Ruth Shields, Owner
Headquarters: Hartford
More Information

Category Winner: Manufacturer of the Year

Q&A talks to Mary Ruth Shields, owner and creator at United Sewing and Design in Hartford. The wholesale sewing contractor primarily makes adult sportswear, gear bags and table linens, providing private and corporate clients with product development, prototyping and small-batch production.

United Sewing, founded in 2017, is a social enterprise business that employs formerly incarcerated individuals and recycles or re-purposes the majority of its flexible material scraps and paper waste.

Describe your target customer. 

Our customers need to manufacture small batches of their product. They may not have experience with manufacturing soft goods and are looking for a trusted partner to take their idea from sketch to sellable. Often, they want American made and to support our missions of hiring returning citizens and removing materials from the waste stream. 

Looking into the future five years, where do you see your business? 

We will have moved to a location in Hartford that supports a larger workforce, more equipment and larger contracts. We will have added on-site computer-aided design capabilities, more computer-enhanced cutting/sewing equipment, plus sophisticated production management systems. We will have also added space with equipment and mentoring to support local apparel designers.

What has been your biggest accomplishment? Is there anything you would change or do differently?

In business, my biggest accomplishment has been shepherding United Sewing and Design from an idea to a profitable business in five years. If I were to do it again, I would definitely get more accounting help from the very beginning.

What advice would you give to other small businesses,especially during this difficult time?

Don’t go it alone! There are so many free and low-cost resources in Connecticut specifically geared toward small business owners. Most are very high quality with friendly, sympathetic staff who really know their stuff.