How a Montana Belt Company Brought Manufacturing Back Home

About Jelt

Jennifer Perry wanted to provide a low-profile, comfortable, and fashionable belt for athletic working women. In 2014 she launched Jelt, a belt manufacturing company based in Bozeman, Montana. Since its inception, Jelt's belts have evolved to include a variety of colors and designs perfect for outdoor activities, travel, and everyday use. The two-person company is committed to protecting the environment through the use of 100 percent recycled water bottles, and to giving back through the support of veterans and children’s organizations. Through its Montana manufacturing model, Jelt helps incarcerated women gain valuable job skills and self-confidence.

The Challenge

Jelt was working with a supplier in China, but purchasing and logistical challenges required the company to maintain high levels of inventory in order to meet unpredictable demand. Perry was new to manufacturing, and the owner struggled with challenges relating to quality control, performance standards, and contract negotiations. She wanted to bring the manufacturing of her belts, and therefore jobs, back to the U.S. and Montana, and reached out to the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC), part of the MEP National Network, for assistance.

MEP Center's Role

MMEC understood Perry’s commitment to bringing manufacturing jobs to Montana, and worked to support her goal of creating a vibrant and growing company rooted in making a positive difference. MMEC consultants helped the team from Jelt to identify and evaluate the feasibility of U.S.-based manufacturing options, and provided customized training on how to negotiate with, and manage the performance of, contract manufacturers. MMEC also introduced Perry to Montana Correctional Enterprises (MCE), a skills development program for incarcerated women working to provide contract manufacturing. The net result has been a mutually beneficial partnership: Jelt’s business grew, the women gained valuable skills, and MCE consistently met Jelt's production, performance and delivery expectations.

After establishing the relationship with MCE, MMEC provided Jelt with additional training on creating standard work documents, conducting risk analysis, developing performance standards, and other fundamentals of the manufacturing process. "MMEC has created a great foundation for future business growth in the industry,” said Perry. "I look forward to working with MMEC in the future on business improvements in our supply chain, product development, and cost analysis."

We are so grateful for the services provided by MMEC. With their assistance, our team developed the skills needed to bring our manufacturing from China to Montana. The services provided by MMEC have built a strong Montana manufacturing community. 

Jennifer Perry, Jelt Owner