In this story, Juliette Silver, the CEO of USAtowl, discusses the company's mission, her experience as a woman entrepreneur, and her partnership with Order.co. USAtowl is a family-owned business that manufactures and distributes towels, washing machines, and other products for various industries. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they also started producing masks and other PPE. She discusses how she led her company through a major pivot, sourcing PPE during the pandemic. USA Towel aims to continue expanding and exploring new opportunities.
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Tell us about USAtowl, its mission, and the range of products that you offer.
It’s a family-owned business, and we've been in business for over 50 years. I took over as president and CEO in 2014. At that time, we became a certified woman-owned business.
The main products we manufacture and distribute are washing machines and towels for businesses ranging from spas, sports teams, fitness centers, country clubs, beauty salons, etc.
We also manufacture chemicals which are used in the washing machines, for example, laundry detergents and degreasers. Finally, we also provide PPE; we started that entire division during Covid.
What advice do you have for women that are trying to start their own businesses?
The most important thing is to have knowledge of what you're selling, and don't take into account that you're a man or woman.
We have another division called Car Wash World, and we sell to the car wash industry. 95% of the time, I'm the only woman in any meeting, dinner party, or show. I feel very respected because of my knowledge of my product. Sometimes people think you don't have the same ability or knowledge, and that's not true at all.
Also, the whole philosophy of our company, which has made us successful, is customer service. We have availability seven days a week. If anybody calls, even on the weekends, phone calls are routed to myself or to one of my employees so we can help if there’s an issue or if a customer needs to place an order.
In addition to customer service, our reputation is known for the quality of our product. Having the best quality will also bring you to the top.
Over the years, how have you refined your process and made sure that you’re delivering the best quality?
We've been dealing with the same factories for over 40 years. We don't get an order and just find somebody to make it or distribute it for us. We have been working with the same people. So we are very, very on top of the quality of what we're selling and packaging. We're very consistent with that.
The most important thing is customer service. The customer is always right, and you have to show them that you give 150% of your time. So, if we have a problem with a customer, we make sure that they are 100% satisfied. You could have 50 happy customers but one unhappy customer could destroy you. Especially now with social media, they can put bad negative comments about you.
It's all about referrals. If somebody is happy, they're going to refer me to several people. If somebody calls them and needs one of our items, and the first thing they always say when they send a referral to us is, ”You've been so highly recommended,” and we like to keep that up in terms of our reputation.
Tell me a little bit about how the partnership between USAtowl and Order.co started.
It started out through one of our mutual customers, Barry's Bootcamp. I spoke to one of Order.co’s reps and they wanted to meet up to discuss other products that we sell.
We met and started to work on some other deals with some fitness centers that you sell to. And nothing really happened, we were just kind of moving along and then all of a sudden, Covid hit.
At first, like everyone else, I was home for three days, depressed, thinking — I'm going out of business. How are we going to work? How are we going to survive?
Then I got a call from Mike, head of vendor operations at Order.co, and he asked if we could supply masks.
Mike put this little light bulb in my head. Then, I had one other customer that also one very large chain that also happened to call me the same week. I said to myself, “I can handle this.” So, we started calling our factories and shifted right into gear.
We started shipping all this product by air to us. We also worked with many other companies and started co-producing wipes and hand sanitizer to sell and distribute. We ramped it up and we were able to fill as many orders as possible.
Then Order.co called us when they were looking for gloves, so it snowballed. There was a point where I was speaking to Order.co 50 times a day because we were literally filling any kind of need they had. And it really it propelled our business — we had one of our best years ever just by dealing with the PPE, which I couldn't believe that was possible.
One of the beauties of being an entrepreneur is that you're able to pivot your company and figure out what to do in a crisis. We were able to take a very horrible situation and turn it into something positive for our company while filling the need of our customers.
What are your goals and aspirations for yourself and USAtowl in the coming years?
The company has been growing every year and we're looking to continue that growth. We also have to hone in on the products that we are good at, that we have the niche in the business, and continue to grow with those products. If a good product came across my desk that I felt would be worthy as to to fit with our products, I would consider also launching it, which did with the PPE division.