Meganne Wecker has created a name for herself as a pioneer in fashion-forward furniture design. During her time at the helm as the third generation of her family-owned wholesale furniture company, Skyline, sales have grown exponentially year after year. In October 2016, she expanded her resume to launch Cloth & Company – Skyline’s sister brand which focuses on fashion-forward home décor. Boasting one of the industry’s most efficient, eco-conscious, and inventory free business models, Cloth & Company uses digital design and state-of-the-art digital printing technology to produce custom products that are shipped to the consumer in three weeks.
Your grandfather founded Skyline Furniture and your great-grandfather owned an upholstery factory in the early 1900’s. What perspective has your family’s history in the industry given you?
The perspective I’ve gained over the years is that it’s about more than just the business. It’s about the people who work within the company, it’s about the industry as a whole and it’s about the good that we can do for people’s lives outside of just making furniture. The pandemic has helped me to appreciate that perspective even more. Also, diversity, equity and inclusion have always been a part of my family’s business and this has also become even more important to me over the past few years.
Did you always plan to join the family business?
My father never pressured me to join the business. But after I had graduated from college, he presented me with a great option to have a role in the import side of the business. It was initially only going to be for a few years and then my plan was to go to grad school. But, I found that I really enjoyed the creativity that it offered. I love traveling and going to new places and meeting people. I then found myself drawn to textiles and furniture design and I enjoyed working with both my father and grandfather. Some of Skyline’s employees are second generation and others have worked here for almost 50 years. So, I was able to work with all those wonderful people that I met while I was growing up.
What challenges have you faced as a female leader in a male-dominated industry?
I think that looking back, I faced a lot of them but I didn’t recognize them at the time. My father is a champion of – you can do whatever you want if you work really hard. So, that’s what I did. But, now I see that I faced some roadblocks that others didn’t. I do think that I was fortunate in that being the underdog made me try even harder and gave me opportunities that I might not have had otherwise.
I do feel like many of my male counterparts didn’t believe that it was possible that I would be successful. Also, we played in catalogs, and then in e-commerce, which at the time wasn’t considered a real channel. So, I was a bit off the radar, which gave me the ability to run and be very successful doing things that others weren’t doing.
The combination of being female and being in this new distribution channel of e-commerce meant that people weren’t paying as much attention to me. But, they are now.
I learned so much from my father and grandfather. Our business will be 75 years old this year. My father had full faith in me that I could carry the business into the future. Also, my family treats everyone with respect so, I may have been naïve, but I didn’t even consider that I wouldn’t be treated with respect when it was my turn to run the business.
Skyline Furniture and Cloth & Co. often adopt new technologies first. Why do you think embracing new technology is such an important part of staying relevant?
I believe the world is constantly changing. When I was growing up and new to the company, my dad knew the world would be different than the one that he grew up in and that my grandfather grew up in. The future won’t be the same as things are now, so you need to prepare now in order to stay relevant. Technology is just one component of that. It’s the mindset of what is coming in the next 10 years and how can your company stay relevant with young people. We need to be adopting what younger people are doing and how they are shopping and have items they are looking for. We are now using technology such as 3D imagery and virtual showrooms to achieve that.
Of course, some of our customers don’t embrace change as readily as we do and so we haven’t always brought everyone along with us. But, over time, most people seem to come around. That’s just part of it, part of being an early adopter and the first to try something new.
I believe there is a lot of room in our industry for change to happen and advancements to be made. There is so much heritage in home furnishings but I don’t believe you are alienating that heritage when you embrace the future. It’s how you continue to honor that heritage by embracing change and staying relevant.
How has adding the digital printers changed your business?
Adding the digital printers has allowed us to become more eco-friendly since we are only printing what we need. We have clean water runoff from the machine. I believe that being eco-conscious will be a main focus for the next 10 years. It also allows us to unleash infinite creativity in that we can bring to life new collaborations and new products in a matter of days and weeks. And, we can offer exclusivity to retailers. It’s done a lot of good for us in a lot of different ways. Our newest digital printer prints on linen and it also allows us to offer indoor/outdoor fabrics so we have been adding a lot of outdoor pillows. Also, we can do personalized items for kid’s furniture or monogrammed with the customer’s own wording in some cases.
Also, the digital printers have protected us from supply chain issues since we aren’t waiting for fabrics to come in. We are able to print what we need as we need it and quickly – so that’s enabled our lead times to stay very short. I believe this current crisis will lead manufacturers to move back to the U.S. For example, we just found a new metal source in Michigan. We can now drive up and pick up the metals versus waiting for them to be unloaded from a ship that is stuck in a port somewhere.
Because of the desire for customization, I believe that manufacturing needs to head back to the U.S. Amazon has led consumers to expect items to be delivered quickly. So there is a need for onshoring. But, one of the issues is that schools are not training people for careers in manufacturing. So we will need more training and people who are able to successfully run a factory.
You received the Leadership Withit WOW Award in 2020. What did that mean to you?
It’s hard to describe. It was really flattering to be seen in that light. I really felt appreciation for all the women who had come before me who I had learned from. I felt like it was a pivotal point that encouraged me to continue to work really hard to be that same type of mentor for younger women coming into the industry.