Apparel Program Manager - Janelle

" The space is a real testament to who we are - our vision and our brand. We are certainly spoiled with a beautiful view and space. But even more than that, the culture is a priority here, and it's really awesome. "

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and what do you do?

I grew up in Charlotte, NC and attended Clemson University. My husband and I live in Greenville, SC, and I am a program manager for OOBE Inc., a uniform and apparel design company.

can you give us insight into the company & how THE UNIFORM BUSINESS WORKs?

OOBE Inc. was started in 1994 as a lifestyle brand with outdoor apparel. (We have nice ‘vintage’ posters in the office with 90’s - style clothing to prove it). In 2005, we were selected by Chick-fil-A to design and supply their uniforms. Since that partnership, OOBE continues to outfit successful, well-known companies in various industries, including BMW Manufacturing, Krispy Kreme, and Food Lion.

Typically, the companies we work with will have a bidding process for a uniform supplier. We have a creative department and team of in-house designers that work together to design apparel options for clients that are durable, fashionable, cost-effective and that suit their specific needs. It can take up to 2 years from the initial design evaluation agreement to rolling out the new uniforms system-wide, with factory development and production normally taking about 5 months. Every program or client is very different, and there is a lot that goes into getting a company ready to make a shift from one uniform supplier to another.

How would you describe your role at OOBE?

In my new role as program manager, I work towards setting up our new client, which is a bottling company in Charlotte, NC. I will oversee the entire process - from the initial agreement to when the uniforms will roll out. I have one other person on my team that I work closely with everyday, and together we communicate with the various departments within OOBE Inc. and with the client. Throughout the workday, I will have contact with a variety of individuals - a creative, in-house designer, an IT support specialist, and a CFO. We have a lot of other departments involved, but ultimately the success of the program rests on me. I make sure all other teams within our company are doing what they need to do to make the program successful: outfitting the new client.

What does your typical day look like?

I spend the majority of my workday meetings and communicating with different departments. Part of my job is to make sure that the IT team, creative team, or sourcing team understands the timeline and what the client needs. I schedule and lead meetings with every department from OOBE to get updates on how things are going. I communicate with the client as well. I have a weekly conference call with them, and every other week I do an in person meeting with them to make sure we have what we need from them and to make sure that we are on the same page. I send and respond to a lot of emails and create spreadsheets. For instance, I may be breaking down the numbers to make sure that our CFO knows what we will have to spend or letting our sourcing department know what we have to order from the factory. Every day is a little different. For example, today we are doing a photo shoot. We also create catalogs to keep the employees aware of the new apparel that they will be wearing.

Tell us more about the workplace and the culture at OOBE.

We have this awesome, creative office and a little slice of heaven right on the river in downtown Greenville. The space is a real testament to who we are - our vision and our brand. We are certainly spoiled with a beautiful view and space. But even more than that, the culture is a priority here, and it's really awesome.

OOBE was founded 22 years ago by two Clemson graduates that had a passion for serving people. Our mission statement actually includes loving and serving others. We focus on how we can love and serve our vendors, our partners, and our fellow employees. It becomes evident in the details as well. For example, we offer our meeting space to our clients to utilize for their internal meetings, and our hospitality department will work to create a space that is comfortable and inviting. Also, to celebrate the employees here this summer, every other Friday, we are attending a summer soiree, a small party on the outdoor patio to help foster developing friendships and relationships. The work/life balance is great, and the owners foster a very positive environment. There is definitely a vibe here, and it is becoming increasingly better known and a desirable place to work.

Did you know you wanted to work in this industry as a student?

I majored in health science and had no aspirations to do anything with apparel as a student at Clemson. My husband took a job here in Greenville, but I was unemployed. I really did not know exactly what I wanted to do. I had ruled out any health-related positions and was trying to figure what I wanted to do in business. I felt that I had so many options I was really just trying to narrow it down. I applied to tons of jobs in different fields. I had no idea what kind of job I wanted, but while I spent some time doing insurance at an orthodontist practice, I heard about OOBE. I realized THAT was the kind of company I wanted to work for but didn’t know what kind of position would be the right fit. I made the company and culture the priority during my job search, and then focused on the role in which I would excel.

you found the company you wanted to work for, but How did you land the job?

I interviewed with them for a program support specialist position in management, the same department I am currently in, and didn’t get the job. I didn’t get it, but I continued to follow up with my contact there. I continued to tell him that I was still interested in OOBE and to please let me know if anything comes available. At one point, there was a need for an IT person, but I knew that was not for me. However, I responded to let them know that my brother-in-law was interested. At the time, my brother-in-law had literally no interest in changing jobs and was very settled in Charlotte with his family. I got his resume from my sister and sent it to OBEE, and I didn’t tell him. After an interview, they offered him the job, he accepted, and moved to Greenville.

So I still did not have a job at OBEE, but my brother-in-law had a job at OOBE. So then I had a family member on the inside, and he would send me all of the job postings. I continued to follow up, and that same job (program support specialist), opened up again. I applied again for the same job a year later and got it. It was almost a year of following up and seeing what was available, but it was absolutely the exact timing that the Lord wanted me to have the job and the exact position that I was supposed to have. After a year, I was promoted to my current position as program manager.

YOur background differed from the industry you're in now. Do you have any advice for students in the process of deciding on a major?

I picked my major because I wanted something that would translate into a job directly after college. I majored in health science because I figured I would go to further schooling - medical or dental school. That was a mistake for me to assume such a definite position. I think if I had been more open to being unsure about what exactly I wanted to do my first years of college that would have been okay. I probably would have spent less time focusing on a path that ultimately wasn’t the right one for me. My advice to students entering college is that it really is okay not knowing what you want to do and to pick a major just because you like it. I gave myself a lot of heartache throughout college stressing over applications and exams that I didn’t need to take, because ultimately that wasn’t the right path for me. Not knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life and not having a specific plan the second you graduate can be okay. It might not be what our parents would say, but I think that happens now. Most students don’t always know exactly what they want to do, so when choosing a major try to be more open minded to the opportunities out there.

DO you have any advice for those searching for the right job?

I was unemployed for about a year and it is crazy how much it feels like what you do defines you. I knew my skill set. I knew I could be a good leader because experiences and responsibilities I had from high school and college showed me that. I felt like I could manage people pretty well, but I didn’t have much experience with it. I knew I was relational and extroverted. It just came down to figuring out what I should do with that. I felt that I had a ton of options and it was more of finding the right company and THEN the right position. The concept of making the company a priority was so foreign to me in college. There are a ton of different paths to get somewhere and for someone who feels like they could do a lot of different things and is having a hard time narrowing it down, I would encourage that person to focus less on the actual job that may interest them and more on the kind of company that attracts them. I have found that it can be bearable to be in a less desirable position for a season, if the culture of the company is appealing and you see potential growth and promotional opportunities within the company. 

What are your long term goals with your career?

This year OOBE is getting back to it's roots and launching a retail line. Our uniform clients will remain our priority, but the goal is to add value to our uniform program so that clients will see the potential: they didn’t hire just a uniform company to outfit them off of the shelf, but instead they partnered with a firm that will design and supply clothing specifically for their needs. The line will show what we are capable of, and although my role won’t change much with this new expansion, I am excited to be a part of a company that has such a unique story. OBEE is growing and I think there are going to be a lot of opportunities for me. I would hope to take on more responsibilities in program management as the company adds more programs in the future. I do look forward to being along for this journey with an incredible company.