Home SQ Awards Program SQ Projects SQ Workshops SQ Articles

SQA Online Resource Center


SMALL BUSINESS CATEGORY -- True Color Fabric Dyeing

P.O. Box 656
Ben Lomond, CA 95005
Phone: 831.336.2488
Web Site: http://www.fabricdyeing.com/
Product or service: Dyes old garments to look like new, reducing waste that would end up in the landfill.

Update 2003: Since the story below was written, True Color Fabric Dyeing moved to a new location in downtown Santa Cruz, but eventually closed the storefront in order to keep costs down. Business is conducted mostly by phone and UPS. While the ordering process is too individual for online ordering, the web site provides information about the dyeing process and attracts new customers nationwide. Santa Cruz County customers still get in person service by appointment.

True Color Fabric Dyeing is now a six-year-old business that "revives" old garments by dyeing them to look like new, reducing waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Items in good repair with fade, spots or the wrong color can be made serviceable again. The potential impact of saving clothing and fabric from the landfill is as large as that of plastics - an estimated 75,000 tons per year.

Fabric dyeing saves businesses money by reducing the costs of buying new replacements for things such as uniforms and tablecloths. Simultaneously, fabric dyeing also makes optimal use of existing resources.

Environmental Stewardship is a daily act at True Color. A serviceable textile item can be dyed many times to look fresh again and again. Recycled fabrics need to be broken down and then rewoven at great energy and cost. True Color buys supplies in bulk, concentrated, refillable, and unwrapped. Most office furniture in the studio has had a "past life" tables, racks, chairs, shelves - even the door frame. The entire building was recently painted with recycled paint.

The True Color studio is conveniently located in the Soquel Village, with provisions for alternative transportation shown on the brochure -- Metro Bus numbers, free public parking and close freeway exits. Bicycles are always welcome, too!

True Color has grown to a list of over 1000 clients nationwide, mostly through referrals and hope to expand their customer base in the years to come. When asked what project she would like to accomplish next, Sherry Smilo (owner) said that she would like to re-dye all Cal Trans uniforms bright orange.

In the year of this award (1998), True Color had grown substantially through computerization of all business operations and staff expansion. A core value at True Color is social responsibility, hiring people who may otherwise not be easily employable and through supporting fundraising events by donating services. Goodwill's "Dress for Success" annual fashion show features some of True Colors' masterpieces.

True Color Fabric Dyeing provides a unique service. True Color dyes clothing, soft furnishings and other textiles for businesses and individuals. Items in good repair with fade, spots or the wrong color can be made serviceable again.

True Color is a nine-year-old business that was purchased in year three.  The purchase included a hand-written mailing list of 200 local names. With a list of more than 1,000 client, business continues to grow mostly from referrals. Clients are of all income and professional levels who want to save money and have fun.

Working closely with the professional Dyemasters at the Commercial Dyehouse has increased color consistency. Dyemasters have years of experience in the science and art of fabric content and color matching. They go along with the owner's "kooky experiments" -- tennis shoes, shoe laces, and teddy bears. They patiently answer all questions. However, when asked to dye a bag of sheep wool, they laughed hysterically!

Ms. Smilo bought True Color from a woman who ran it part-time off her back porch. At first she ran the business from her home and in her car. True Color now has a permanent location. True Color is also finally in the Yellow Pages under "Fabric" and "Dry Cleaners." The Yellow Pages listings and colorful sign facing the street have increased business. 

Automation reduced paper waste, time wasted and increased accuracy. Clients are listed by name, date and color choices. Receipts will be neat and clear, not hand written. All bookkeeping and correspondence will be stored in the computer. Further goals included one or two part-time permanent employees to decrease cycle time from drops off to pick up of the finished job.

II. Social Responsibility

A core value of True Color practices social responsibility in local matters. Ironing is done by an otherwise unemployable mentally ill neighbor. A struggling musician vacuums the studio and cleans the windows. A handicapped client is met in the parking lot. True Color donates dyeing serves for fundraising events. In 1998, I hope to work with Goodwill Industries for their annual fashion show. I have also taken on "the dirty bathroom problem." For $10.00 per month, from the neighbor business, the bathroom is sanitized and restocked on a weekly schedule.

Human relations are based on the Nordstrom Attitude, "Be Nice." It is actually easier to be thoughtful of others than to be a grouch. I believe this attitude has served me well due to the volume of repeat and referral business. Professional friendly relationships keep me in touch with clients and suppliers.

The Board of Director for True Color includes Sherri Dad, Sid Smilo, My Uncle Barney, Aunt Reni and Cousin Bettina Smilo. The Cheerleading Squad includes (in alphabetical order), Barbara, Dennis, Faye and Tom, Jan, Jenny, Leslie, Lisa and Phil, Lorayn, and Pam and Rick. These distinguished group has provided information about Advertising, Bookkeeping, Business Strategy, Brochure Presentation, Color and Fabric Name and Selection, Shipping and Receiving, Invoicing and Customer Relations. At True Color there is never a shortage of free advice. Never!

III. Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship is a daily act at True Color. Fabric dyeing is recycling but it is also pre-cycling. A serviceable textile item can be dyed many times to look fresh again and again. Recycled fabrics need to be broken down and then rewoven at great energy and cost. Fiscally correct, and fun, fabrics dyeing make best uses of what we have right now. Voluntary Simplicity does not mean boring! Hand-me-downs, towels, throw rugs, uniforms and slipcovers look great in cheerful, modern colors.

Goal was to increase commerce with other industries. Uniforms for schools and work can be dyed. Hotel bed liners, curtains and towels can be dyed. Roadworkers can dye their T-shirts, jumpsuits and vests to safety orange to increase visibility and thus safety. A jail in New Mexico dyes the inmates' underwear and T-shirts pink! Why? It seems to calm down the inmates and also reduces theft!

On every level of business transactions the owner thinks to herself, "Do I really need this? Can I get it used, by trade, can I share, rent or borrow the item? Can I repair the old one?" Supplies are bought in bulk, concentrated, refillable and unwrapped.

The Soquel Village studio location shows Metro Bus numbers, free public parking and close freeway exits. Bicycles are always welcome, too!

Most furniture in the studio has a "past life". This includes shelves, racks, tables, chairs, couch and even the doorframe.


Phone:         831.336.2488

Visit online:  http://www.fabricdyeing.com/

Or write to:  True Color Fabric Dyeing, P.O. Box 656, Ben Lomond, CA 95005



Copyright 1994-2006 Sustainable Quality Awards
Last modified: Jan. 22, 2006