This is part three of a series Serve Daily is doing on trades and the need for more skilled workers. In 2019, the Department of Labor reported the US economy had 7.6 million unfilled skilled labor jobs, but only 6.5 million people were looking for work. With population growing, and skilled workers decreasing in numbers, Serve Daily hopes that through this series of articles, it will encourage individuals to consider learning a trade and pursuing a future in related jobs.
It all started in her junior high school sewing class at Mountain Ridge Junior High School in Highland, and now Rachel Nilsson of Orem is the owner of a multi-million dollar company called “Rags” that creates unique clothing for children all over the world.
According to Nilsson, if she hadn’t taken that sewing class in junior high, and then a subsequent one in high school, she wouldn’t be where she is today.
“The sewing class was part of a home economics course that I had to take in school, and we learned the basics of working a sewing machine,” she said. “I took a class in high school for a credit, and had a fun time sewing bags for friends. I also started sewing fabric onto my own shirts to make them fit better because I have a really long torso.”
One day, Nilsson was in a boutique while wearing one of the shirts she had sewn, and the owner asked about it. Nilsson explained that she had designed and sewn the shirt she was wearing, and the owner asked her to make some to be sold at the store. According to Nilsson, earning money from a trade she learned gave her confidence to do more.
It was that confidence that helped her start her business during a challenging time for her family.
In 2014, while living in her parent’s basement with her husband and three young kids, Nilsson was struggling to make ends meet. To help, she started sewing children’s clothing from old clothes she had and began selling them on Instagram. As a mother of small kids, she saw a need for a simple outfit that kids could slide on and off, so she produced a one piece romper with an elastic neckline. She took her idea to the show, Shark Tank, and six years later, her company has a dedicated following with loyal customers, making it what it is today.
“When you have a skill, then you are able to solve problems,” she said. “When I was sewing my own shirts, I was solving a problem with the skill I learned. When my family was struggling financially, I used that same skill to solve another problem.”
Nilsson says that learning trades can often help people to be proactive in their own futures because they have something to offer that maybe someone else doesn’t. She says that while she sees the value in going to college and getting a degree, that sometimes it can be stifling if it isn’t the right path for you. She encourages people who are inclined to also learn trades.
“I think college is important, but sometimes it can be a hindrance,” she said. “Learning trades and skills that you can use to solve problems is so valuable and something I’m super passionate about. I encourage people to take this path if it works for them.” (Brown is a Serve Daily contributor.)