Cleveland Business Connects

For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

By Amanda Bates  |  Photo by Doug Khrenovsky

The first year that MMI Textiles was in business, the company’s president and founder, Amy Bircher, slept in her car instead of a hotel while she traveled to meet with customers.

Pride and the desire to establish herself on her own prevented her from turning to her parents for help.

Bircher had big plans from the beginning in September 1997. Rather than use her last name in her business name, as many textile companies do, she went a different route. MMI — an abbreviated version of “Me, Myself and I” — reflects Bircher’s self-reliant spirit.

“I didn’t want a company that sounded kind of mom-and-pop,” Bircher says. “I wanted a business that sounded bigger and more corporate.”

Nonetheless, MMI Textiles has its roots in her family’s textile dying and finishing facility, National Dye Works. Bircher grew up learning the process of manufacturing textiles and understanding what it took to run a factory. She solidified her career path by earning her undergraduate degree in textiles and fashion merchandising.

Westlake-based MMI Textiles is a broker that provides industrial textiles to end-product sewing manufacturers. The product lineup includes fabric and other components, such as zippers, labels, and cords. Bircher gives an example of a backpack – everything that goes into making a backpack is something that MMI Textiles sells.

Today Bircher’s company is seeing growth of 30 percent to 50 percent every year. What started out as a one-woman operation has now expanded to 16 employees.

Networking has been crucial to her company’s success, and Bircher’s ability to develop quality connections remains a driving force behind the company’s sales.

“You can’t look at networking as an event; you have to look at it as a lifestyle,” she says. “My philosophy is that you never know who you are going to meet or how it’s going to affect your business.”

Her philosophy applies to her hiring process, too. She may not have an open position, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t recognize when she meets someone who could take MMI Textiles to next level.

For instance, she recently hired a Global Business Manager to increase the company’s suppliers overseas and ramp up its competitiveness in certain product lines. Bircher wasn’t even looking for anyone in the role, but she met him and decided she needed him to expand MMI’s global supply chain.

When asked about the challenges of being a female entrepreneur, Bircher says she’d rather focus on the positive and on factors she can control. Since MMI Textiles does business globally, she is well-aware of limitations she may face because of cultural differences.

“It’s kind of the world we live in, and we aren’t going to change it overnight,” says Bircher. “I don’t look at them as roadblocks, because it’s never impeded our success.”

For anyone with entrepreneurial dreams, her advice is the same regardless of gender. Have a story to tell, and have a strategic, documented plan. For businesses that are fortunate enough to see the kind of growth that MMI Textiles has experienced, it takes equality in human resources in addition to financial resources to sustain growth.

With a five-year plan to double MMI Textiles’ sales and hire eight to 10 more people, Bircher no longer has concerns about being perceived as a mom-and-pop shop. Through her own tenacity, resourcefulness, and leadership, she has woven her big plans into a successful business.   

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