Rightfully Sewn’s acquisition by a 109-year-old nonprofit with national reach means more contracts, more employees and more impact for the mission-focused fashion company, said Jennifer Lapka.
What is Rightfully Sewn?
Rightfully Sewn creates jobs and opportunities in Kansas City through the business of fashion with a seamstress training program, fashion designer professional development program, and small batch production services. Rightfully Sewn offers pattern making, sample sewing and cut-and-sew services to emerging and established fashion brands at its Crossroads-based atelier.
“No shakeups, no drama. The brand, programs, and team will stay intact,” said Lapka, founder of Rightfully Sewn, which this week announced a merger with Kansas City-based Alphapointe. “We are, however, about to hire more seamstresses to handle our current production load — plus some of the contracts Alphapointe’s business development team are sending our way.”
Alphapointe’s business lines include plastics, micro-molding, office products manufacturing and sales, textiles manufacturing and sales, janitorial products, contact center services and retail stores at military bases in Missouri and Arkansas.
Rightfully Sewn — initially known for its long-running seamstress training program — has become a leader on the Kansas City fashion scene. Under Lapka’s leadership, the company pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic to mask production before returning to more traditional apparel — like dresses, kimonos and athletic wear — this fall.
Click here to read more about Rightfully Sewn’s mission and most recent fashion line.
Additional workload and seamstress power brought by the acquisition are pushing Rightfully Sewn to expand its headquarters at 1800 Wyandotte into a second suite within the building. The current atelier space, which opened in 2018, will house small batch production, and the new street-level space will house public-facing activities: seamstress training, public sewing/fashion classes, and private lessons.
“We have to have more room for the staff to sew more contracts and house the $263,000 in new equipment we are procuring thanks to a grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development,” Lapka said, referencing recent funding for more sewing machines and a computerized cutting table.
The merger comes as a measure of success for Rightfully Sewn, which was ready to take a significant next step, she said.
“It’s not a normal acquisition with a windfall of cash or golden parachute at closing — that was never my intention in starting Rightfully Sewn,” Lapka detailed. “I launched five years ago with the intent of turning it into a full-fledged nonprofit that used the business of fashion as a work training, employment, and economic driver that benefited others.”
Rightfully Sewn is fiscally-sponsored by the Kansas City-based nonprofit, Community Capital Fund, which allowed the company to prove its model, show its services are needed, and demonstrate its contributions to the community, she said.
The organization is transitioning to become its own 501c3 entity, which will be a subsidiary of Alphapointe, Lapka said.
“It’s basically an in-depth, long-term partnership where both parties benefit,” she said. “We access their benefits and core staff functions like business development, accounting, IT, etc., and we provide their clients with additional training and employment opportunities.”
“We will have board overlap and regular joint leadership strategy meetings,” Lapka continued. “In short our missions are so similar — to empower people with training and employment all while advancing domestic manufacturing — that we are stronger working this closely together.”
Reinhard Mabry, president and CEO of Alphapointe, initially approached Rightfully Sewn earlier this year about opportunities to contract with the smaller company for apparel manufacturing business development opportunities, Lapka said.
“Instead of Alphapointe just sending Rightfully Sewn sewing contracts, I proposed a much larger, longer partnership between our two organizations,” she said. “Reinhard is a visionary and his team moves as fast as we do; I’m excited to see what we are now capable of together.”
Ultimately, the two organizations hope to enrich the area’s specialized workforce to reestablish Kansas City as an epicenter of garment manufacturing, Lapka said, noting it’s a design for success that Rightfully Sewn is uniquely suited to help craft.
“To have a national entity that is over 100 years old with a $60 million annual operating budget looking at our startup organization and what we can do for them and the individuals they serve, our team is humbled,” she said. “We have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, if we pause a moment to look back. We fully share the credit with the Kansas City community who has understood what we want to achieve and supported us from day one.”