After honing her craft for more than 30 years, seamstress and Entrepreneur University graduate Gretchen Campbell has built quite a repertoire.
“If you can wear it, I can make it,” says Campbell, who founded DeRiCheék, a fashion business, in 2004
Customers of the New Brunswick-based DeRiCheék count on Campbell for the gloves, scarves, nightgowns, bathrobes, backpacks she makes by hand. Campbell also sells pillows specially embroidered to commemorate a birth, life or a graduation. These, she says, are some of her biggest sellers.
To create her company’s name, Campbell combined the first few letters of each of her three children’s names. It was an appropriate choice: supporting her kids’ educational endeavors is a big part of what motivated Campbell to start her business.
When her son Dexter was a senior at New Brunswick’s Health Sciences Technology High School, he and his classmates had to raise money for their prom senior trip. Campbell liked the cause, but the thought of her son and his classmates begging for money turned her off.
So Campbell devised a free-market approach: she designed a special type of backpack and embroidered it with the school’s name and her son’s graduating year. She and the students sold the bags throughout the community, giving their proceeds to the school.
This new backpack line proved a lucrative and socially valuable offering. Since the high school fundraising effort, Campbell has begun branding her bags with the names of local churches, giving worshippers an easy way to raise funds for their congregations.
Dexter has since enrolled at Rutgers, but Campbell still donates a dollar of each sale to the New Brunswick Health Sciences Technology High School. Her son’s decision to pursue a career treating cancer inspired Campbell to take on a new cause: she now donates a portion of her proceeds to the American Cancer Society.
Few entrepreneurs build charitable donations into their business plans, but Campbell relishes the chance to give back.
“It’s more rewarding that way,” she said. Campbell runs her business with a boomerang in mind, conscious of the notion that what goes around comes around. She sees her DeRiCheék as a way for customers to buy locally made clothes while empowering their community
“Anyone can get rich,” Campbell said, “but the challenge is figuring out what you can do for someone else.”
Campbell’s husband C.D. serves as DeRiCheék’s investor and one-man advisory council. He accepts his wife’s charitable focus — with a little reluctance — but contents himself in the business’s strong consumer appeal.
“We’ve gotten positive feedback from Day One,” C.D. said, adding that while helping the community is satisfying, so is producing goods people appreciate.
Campbell’s socially minded business will soon introduce a new product line: Rutgers University-branded apparel. The school granted her permission last week to adorn her towels, robes and scarves with the school’s Scarlet Knight logo.
Customers will soon find DeRiCheék’s line of Rutgers-branded clothing and accessories at university bookstores and online. For more information, e-mail Campbell at Dericheek.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Campbell graduated from the Intersect Fund’s Entrepreneur University