Employing institution organization theory, we empirically study geographic communities in their support of new apparel manufacturing ventures. This research elaborates the local culture and rationalized beliefs that constitute embedded agency and potential linkages to broader market organizations, either of which may hinder or advance the ongoing process of legitimacy in the emerging businesses. The concept of locality is examined for affecting entrepreneurial capacity within the localized community as well as within regional manufacturing systems. The context of the study involves apparel manufacturing startups as organizations in two geographically distant rural Colorado communities with populations less than 20,000. Rural communities are said to seek ideas for new industry and programs aimed at enhancing business growth, entrepreneurship, technology integration, and long-range sustainability. The low overhead and lower cost of living in rural communities allow a business model with competitive pricing for apparel manufacturing. However, rural communities are likely to hold norms that necessitate conformance if the organization is to receive support and achieve legitimacy. Legitimacy may influence the organization’s strategic choices. There are also constraints that accompany the small community in terms of individuals who are interested or capable of working in manufacturing. This was evidenced by a rural Colorado apparel entrepreneur who found local and industry capacity were conversely related. She stated, “We were completely surprised by the demand for our services. And simultaneously, completing surprised by the lack of workforce.” Using a mixed method approach, we draw together insights from community members and apparel manufacturers, both locally and regionally connected.
Legitimacy, Locality, Strategy
Nancy Miller Miller
Professor, Design and Merchandising, Colorado State University
Nancy J. Miller is a professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University. She has made numerous contributions to the field of textiles and clothing through research involving small businesses, business networks, older consumers, and international marketing of apparel products. She is the author of over 50 journal publications and has received $1.9M+ in funding fro multi-state, multi-disciplinary research from agencies such as USDA's National Research Initiative, Fund for Rural America, and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Miller's research has been integrated with teaching and outreach in a variety of wasy. She has developed and taught undergraduate and graduate courses in apparel merchandising with emphasis on small business and entrepreneurship opportunities. Research findings have served independent apparel store owners in rural communities and former students have started small apparel store businesses. Dr. Miller was recognized by the International Textiles and Apparel Association as the 2010 Pearson Prentice Hall Lecturer for Outstanding contributions in the Field, and made an ITAA Fellow in 2024.