J. Renee Claxton

After many years working in overseas production with companies such as The Limited and Liz Claiborne, Renee Claxton knew there was a need for a company that could provide both inspection and quality control of garments. Convincing local banks of that need was another story.

“Banks were unfamiliar with the business,” Claxton says. “They could not understand how I was going to make a profit at it.”

A $10,000 home equity loan got her business started in January 1996, working with clothing company distributors to check quality before the items are sent on to stores. But that loan wasn’t enough to hire employees and buy a much-needed forklift. Claxton remained determined. Her friends helped a lot and she often paid them in clothing, rather than dollars. Warehouse space was limited, so they moved clothing into the parking lot, where there was more room to sort it.

Claxton’s determination has paid off. In just four years, Sort & Pack Inc. has grown to a 10,000-square-foot operation with two retail stores — collectively generating about $1.5 million to $2 million a year in revenue. All this with only 17 employees.

Claxton soon realized that not only was garment sorting profitable, but liquidating the merchandise that didn’t pass inspection opened up even more opportunities. The company’s Catch of the Day Clothing store opened on High Street in January 1998 and has experienced so much success that a second store followed a few months ago.

“I knew when I started the company that I already had customers, but I did not anticipate this,” she says about the phenomenal growth her company has enjoyed. “My goal is to have my own chain of these stores,” she says, so she can reap the benefits of selling the slightly irregular clothing uncovered in Sort & Pack inspections, instead of giving these garments to stores such as T.J. Maxx to retail.

Claxton attributes much of the company’s success to the fact that she’s developed an impressive list of contacts with factories overseas. Today, the business continues to grow via word of mouth. But she also knows as customers such as Abercrombie & Fitch continue to grow, that means more work for Sort & Pack.

“I have to try and accommodate my customer, and if they are growing I have to try and grow with them,” she says.

Written by Lori Murray, a Columbus-based free-lance writer.