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Hennen Goes from Rags to Retail

 

A company that began in a garage in 1999 has now opened its doors — and its rags — to the public.logobannerclear_1436227399__15743

For any kind of microfiber towel need, chances are The Rag Co, founded by Boise State EMBA alumna Carolyn Hennen, has a solution. So Hennen recently opened The Rag Co’s first retail store in Boise—the place to go for “all things towel.”

The Rag Co develops and sells microfiber towels to businesses and individuals. Its customers generally include hotels, spas, beauty supply stores, auto detailers, cleaning services, outdoor outfitters, restaurants, bars, and electronics manufacturers.

In its how-to videos, the company also provides advice on window cleaning, aviation and automobile detailing, paint correcting and drying, and related topics. And while her EMBA background has equipped Hennen with many of the essentials of running this successful business, some of the company’s secrets come down to its lighthearted approach to the business.

“While microfiber towels may not seem like the most exciting business to be in, we’ve actually made a strong name for ourselves online and around the world by having fun and not taking ourselves too seriously,” said Dane Hennen, creative director.

Quote and background info courtesy The Idaho Statesman.

 


We chatted with Carolyn and asked a couple of questions about her business and her EMBA experience, below is our conversation.

What were some of the biggest challenges you had when you decided to leave your career in health care and lead your business full time?

The first big challenge was….Fear of the unknown!  My husband and I both took a big leap of faith, thinking that we could support ourselves and our team long term, with our new business.  I’d been in healthcare for 20 years and felt confident with my expertise in echocardiography and management.  I’d worked my way up to a good position with very solid pay and benefits. It was a big risk to make that career change at this point in our lives, but we thought the opportunities were worth it.

The second big challenge once I started to work in our business full time, was the new learning curve.  The microfiber industry doesn’t sound complicated, but it is very detailed oriented and there are many facets to it. I had the basic overall knowledge, but didn’t have time to get into all the details while I was still working and managing the large department at St. Luke’s.  There was a learning curve that was frustrating and unexpected to me. I thought to myself, “If can do echocardiography in open heart surgery, I should be able to figure out the details of microfiber and International shipping quicker!

How much has your business grown over the past two years?

Our business has doubled each year for the past two years.  We believe we have the opportunity to double again this next year too, we’ll see.  We’ve grown from being in our garage two years ago and just moved in to approximately 15,000. Sq. ft. warehouse and office space.  Our processes are becoming much more stream-lined and efficient.

What were the top three things you gained from Executive MBA that have helped you lead and grow the company?

New Perspective – I gained a new perspective through the EMBA program.  I can’t imagine any other environment where you will be exposed to and listen to so many experts in the field of business.  I loved listening to their successes and failures and how they moved forward, with real life experiences.

Innovation – I heard someone say that, “Innovation is not the result of chance, it’s the result of action.” In our small business, we’ve been able to be innovative creating new opportunities, in a fairly traditional industry.  There have been several people who thought we were a little bit crazy to leave our corporate careers and start this venture in our garage and they have been pleasantly surprised with our success.

Finances and Accounting – Even if you have experts that do your accounting and finances, you need to be able to dive into the numbers and recognize if there are any abnormalities or opportunities and what to do to stay on a positive course.

What is your next big challenge?

Greater expansion Internationally with large Distributors. We currently sell our products around the world, but are building a greater number of distributors in different countries, to mitigate risk.  Our brand is becoming more well-known and we’re excited because many of these distributors want to sell our microfiber cloths under our brand name.

 

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