How OJT Helped This Business Grow
When Carolina Beach Apparel wanted to take a risk and grow its business, NCWorks Career Centers were able to give them the boost they needed.
Based in Wilmington, the company produces apparel for wholesale and retailers that includes t-shirts, polo shirts, coffee mugs, and more. Carolina Beach is owned by Mark Sblendorio and operated with the help of his sons. So while he knew how to satisfy his customers, he didn’t know of some of the resources that were available to him that could enable him to grow his business. That changed one day when an NCWorks business consultant visited his business park and scheduled a meeting with him.
During the meeting, the business consultant discussed the On-the-Job Training program, in which an employer hires an individual and teaches them how to perform the responsibilities of that position. The employer is reimbursed for a portion of that person’s salary while they are enrolled in the program to help offset the cost of training. It’s a good deal for both the individual and the business—so much so that Sblendorio couldn’t believe it existed.
“I literally took a double-take, like I couldn’t imagine that this could be something that we could do,” he said. “She started to describe it in appropriate, thoughtful ways. I kind of interrupted her and said, ‘You’re going to reimburse me for hiring people if I hire them for this program, and for how long?’ I remember sitting there, incredulous.”
He wasn’t incredulous for much longer. His company and the career center started pre-screening applicants who could be hired through the OJT program, and it wasn’t long before they found a veteran named Sharese Robertson, who now runs the pre-press production shop. They also took on another veteran to be a graphic designer. Sblendorio believes that the qualities the veterans learned in the military prepared them well for the private-sector jobs in which they now thrive.
“They fit our requirements pretty well,” he said. “They tend to be more physically up for the job, and there are a lot of physical aspects to the job. A lot of them come up with what I consider very good general trade skills. They’re typically good with working with their hands and following instruction and seeking clarity. They seemed to shine through the process for us.”
The business is shining, too. By taking on new people, Carolina Beach has increased its top-level growth and can take on more orders. Its marketing and sales efforts have grown the business significantly, and the company is trying to keep pace with growth on a production side. Carolina Beach was also recognized as part of the Small Business Tour launched by NC Commerce this summer. The tour is expected to showcase how small businesses used NCWorks and other government services to grow.
Sblendorio wouldn’t have taken on those risks without the help and reimbursement he received from the OJT program and his NCWorks business consultant.
“What the additions to the team have done in the program and out of the program is, we keep getting ourselves ready to scale to more,” Sblendorio said. “That’s been part of our formula for success here—taking the risk and jumping ahead on the investment on production, whether it be salary, equipment, space, what have you—and believing that we are going to scale sales to it.”