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Unique’s operations were spread out in all three countries to “take advantage of the strengths of each region.”
Unique Solutions: “A Pattern for Success…”
A Pattern for Success
Unique Solutions, a high-tech body measurement company from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, is taking on the world.
Thanks to its state-of-the-art body-scanning technology, and easy cross-border trading, it is expanding in the United States and has found new partners in Mexico and elsewhere.
Bodyscanning booth takes clients’ personal measurements for a custom-made fit. Laser technology is FDA approved.
With the click of a mouse, clients looking for custom-fit clothing or soon even ski boots, can get scanned for their measurements in Unique’s body-scanning booth. By retrieving the information in the company’s databank, they can then order clothing online from partners listed on Unique’s website. For made-to-measure men’s suits, customers can link up with international tailor, Moncef Barcous.
Founded by entrepreneur Tanya Shaw Weeks, the company has been able to grow by capitalizing on innovative technology developed in its Canadian testing lab and on the Internet’s wide appeal.
How NAFTA Helped Open New Markets
Thanks to open borders and the easy movement of goods, NAFTA has allowed Unique to capitalize on global value chains and forge new partnerships. NAFTA has also helped to shape a North American mindset.
“The difference from when we first started—and I think it has a lot to do with free trade—is the business environment,” says Shaw Weeks. “U.S. companies have been much more open in the last 10 years to even dealing with Canadian companies. It’s not seen as any kind of barrier.” NAFTA made doing business easier in a number of ways, she adds. Unique’s operations were spread out to “take advantage of the strengths of each region.”
With sales expanding, Unique has decided to maintain its research and development division at its Nova Scotia headquarters, but has moved its marketing and sales arm to California. TJ’s Jeanswear, a New Zealand partner that moved its operations to Parras, Mexico, will produce and deliver custom-made jeans for Unique’s customers, a “big growth area” for the company. Setting up this jeans partnership in a textile-rich Mexican region was a natural fit, says Shaw Weeks.
“The move to Mexico was for three reasons: a greater number of trained workers and staff for the facility and also better access from a textile point of view, a shorter shipping time, and a less cumbersome process for shipping to the U.S. and Canada,” she says.
“We were looking at using and working with other companies in Sri Lanka and Tunisia, but the trade issues there were much more cumbersome and costly than dealing with Mexico… Just the more collaborative business environment that NAFTA has helped to create has been very important for us, especially as a small company over the years trying to form fairly large international partnerships.”
Unique started small as a custom-fit pattern company in 1994 for the home sewing market in the United States.
Shaw Weeks saw the immense potential of the body-scanning technology for other applications. “I really had a vision more around the company being a global connector of body measurement data so that just like your bank card, you could use your information anywhere around the world for different products and services.”
Next Target: the Health and Wellness Industry
Unique is also eyeing the health and wellness industry, another niche market with tremendous growth potential in the NAFTA market and worldwide. Body-scanning technology can also measure body weight and mass, indicators for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Pharmacies in the United States have expressed an interest in the technology.
To showcase Unique’s trademark “Bodyscanner” trucks carrying the machine will criss-cross the United States this year. Each truck will make stops at about 200 events and trade shows.
That elusive made-to-order pair of jeans may be just a click away!
Source: Government of Canada