Leona Liu of Lombard was a student at Elmhurst College when she participated in a study-abroad program in China in 2009.
Learning more about the language while in the land of her heritage was an amazing journey. She also had the opportunity to see just how much people bought custom-fitted clothing. Dresses, suits and other wardrobe essentials were often custom measured and made there, she said.
She met Sam Miller, 28, of Lombard, who was also in the same study program and the two compared notes, especially about the difficulties of finding jeans that fit well in the U.S.
That's when they thought about forming a company that made jeans for adults, she said.
"When Sam got a job in Chicago, he started to update his wardrobe and he was not happy with the quality and the fit of many jeans," said Liu, 27.
She agreed and thought about the Asian market and how common it was to custom make clothes for the customer there. That's when they decided to do a Kickstarter program to raise money to start a company called Red Malt. They raised about $47,000 in 2011, bought a special cutter for the work, found a manufacturing site in Bensenville and set up shop.
Red Malt launched last month and the two have been promoting the company at various trade shows, she said.
A pair of Red Malt jeans cost between $190 and $210, depending on the washing process of the denim.
"We believe we have a great foundation now to solve a problem in the marketplace, good fitting jeans at a good price," she said.
They work with some contractors and two part-time workers while funding the operations by themselves now.
Customers in the Chicago and suburban area can go to the headquarters, also in Bensenville, to get measured, or just send in the numbers, she said.
It then takes 2 to 4 weeks to ship in the United States at no charge.
The entrepreneurs have kept their full-time jobs. Miller sells oxygen and nitrogen products to the health care industry, and Liu does forecasting and analyst work for a manufacturer.
"So far, it's been a great experience," said Liu about the business. "We dove right into the industry to help fill a need and to solve a problem, and that's what has been the driving force."
Turning junk into gold
Elmhurst native and U.S. Navy veteran Ray Hill just launched JDog Junk Removal & Hauling of Elmhurst, which provides junk removal and hauling services to residential and commercial customers. Hill operates the business with his father, Ray Hill Sr., a Marine Corps veteran. The Elmhurst location is the first for the younger Hill and he hopes to add more franchises down the road.
Shark gives advice
Nina Carter and Michelle Adams, co-owners of The Sugar Path in Geneva, recently won a contest sponsored by a financial company that allowed them to travel to New York and have a one-on-one session with "Shark Tank's" Barbara Corcoran, who shared her advice for small businesses.
Lewis M. Sutton, longtime board member of the Pet Care Trust, is retiring after 16 years of service. Sutton is a Wheaton Community High School grad and St. Charles resident. He has served on the boards of the World Pet Association and the Pet Care Trust. He was recently honored for his service by the Pet Care Trust because he was instrumental in the development and rollout of the Pets in the Classroom program, an educational grant program which has provided more than 70,000 grants to teachers and brought a pet into the lives of more than 3 million children.
Ron Heitzman was appointed CEO of Parksite Inc. in Batavia. He succeeds George A. Pattee, who will remain chairman of the Board. Heitzman was a consultant who helped privately held companies with growth and strategy. Pattee will remain chairman of the board focusing the company's acquisition strategy, seeking candidates with matching or complementary business propositions to tie in with the present structure.
Nick Merker has been named a new partner of Ice Miller LLP's Chicago office. ... Ed Piotrowski of Hampshire has published a book called, "A Life Well Fished: Reel Adventures and the Stuff That Happened in Between." The humorous memoir is available on Amazon.com. ... Real estate broker Linda Pratt has returned to Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Lombard.
Lisa Gilbert has been promoted to vice president of membership at the Schaumburg Business Association ... also condolences to Dave Yurko, economic development specialist at the SBA, and his family on the death of his wife, Sandy Yurko, over the holidays.
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