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Empowering businesses, individuals & families by providing best-in-class services & solutions.

All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors – in our own way, each one of us is a giver, and a receiver.” ~ MR ROGERS

Dear Readers, Community, Friends,

Community and rebuilding have been at the top of my mind these past many weeks, as hundreds of local businesses have joined us in our weekly COVID-19 webinars, and voices across the nation speak for equality. Looking at what is next when the storm still looms is daunting. Looking for mentors and heroes is helpful in times like these.

The mission of Building Bridges is to dismantle racism by fostering relationships that respect diversity, seek understanding and encourage action. We provide educational programming paired with a safe place to learn, reflect and discuss.
Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women and Promoting Peace, Justice, Freedom and Dignity for all.
OpenDoors breaks the cycle of poverty through education, one child at a time. We envision a community where all  children succeed. Our work impacts individual students, their families, their schools, other partnering agencies, and the broader community in which we all live.

We have so many people in our town, stretching their limits to keep their businesses going.

Read on to hear of one such company, whose behind-the-scenes ethos permeates into all they create. I hope it sheds light on what is possible.



“My life is my message.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

They say the mountains here are some of the oldest in the world. Along with its great evolutionary history, the varied topography, climate, soils and geology make it the most diverse, temperate deciduous forests in the world. And in these forests, there is a natural harmony where diverse plant communities thrive. What nutrients a tree does not need to grow, it deposits at its base for other plants to utilize, creating an intricate, symbiotic web. Nature has an innate way of sharing and living together in a mutually supportive way. It knows just what to do. And, where there is strong community, there is harmony – for it benefits all.


We have a gem in these mountains that understands this principle. They work from their heart, and for everybody’s benefit, making innovative, high-quality, outdoor gear, that not only supports our fun adventures, but has created a lasting legacy: giving life back to the special craft heritage here we all hold dear. 


Listen to the story of Diamond Brand Gear – which has been around as long as some of our ancient trees, and holds every bit of the same wisdom.



Where there was once a ghostly silence in the wake of the textile industry moving overseas (nearly overnight), Lauren Rash saw a great opportunity to keep jobs local, and preserve the craft. Diamond Brand Gear has always had a relationship with the local textile industry, 01.BCH9819.600pxspecifically the Carolina Textile District, who connects makers and manufacturers across Western North Carolina. Wanting to create a learning program that could benefit the community as a whole, Lauren reached out to them and other local craft manufacturers to create the Industrial Sewing Program, offered at both A-B Tech and Blue Ridge Community Colleges. With the largest percentage of crafters now belonging to millennials, this program can fill a niche with a generation that wants to make things with their hands as a viable alternative to the typical desk job.


“As a region, we’ve lost many of our sewing skills, and we feel it is important to bring the craft back to the area where so many cut and sew businesses are setting up shop. Diamond Brand Gear recognized the need for workforce development and approached it in a collaborative effort to help the sewing community at large. Collaboration is key so that we can continue to grow the industry and to grow the workforce here. No one company was large enough to make this happen on our own, so we are teaming up to grow our own companies together.” ~ Lauren Rash, speaking with Asheville Made



Revolutionizing the outdoor gear world, Diamond Brand Gear sewed the very first Boy Scout backpack, and brought us priceless gear like the Free Spirit Tent.



Origin of the Diamond Brand name: when the military was sourcing canvas for tents and gear, they would always stamp the top grade canvas with a diamond (which was sourced from Diamond Brand Gear). Started in 1881, they have covered everything with these top quality threads, from juke boxes to helicopters. Here’s what they have crafted that has kept them thriving for over a hundred and thirty years.





1881 - Philadelphia. Fur and feathers. 





1920 - Moved manufacturing plant to Long Island City, NY. (Current Corporate Headquarters) War effort: stretchers, hospital tents (today, many DBG tents have been used  for emergency shelter use during pandemic).




1940s - Manufacturing moved to WNC. First back pack for Boy Scouts of America. Also, drop cloths, tarps, juke box covers, yucca sacks, knapsacks.




1960s - Contracted for outdoor industry: REI, LL Bean, NorthFace, … (small contract manufacturing still done today).




1970s - Revolutionized tent industry with the Free Spirit Tent. Insanely simple to assemble (a not-so-outdoorsy person can put this tent together in under 5 minutes). Has an A-frame ceiling, so you can see the stars. Currently, DBG is about to re-launch this tent.




1980s-1990s - Military contracts involving DBG in the Persian Gulf. 





Today - Canvas wall tents for summer camps, helicopter covers, beach tents, backpacks, designer bags for Biltmore®, PPE gear for pandemic. Current contracts with the army, making a 2 man tent, and Shibumi, making beach tent shades.




For a company, your employees are your best spokespeople. They see the actions you take, how you interact with them, your customers, and the community-at-large. The values they see are what they will carry into the world and talk about. Imagine, your first day of work for your new job happens to fall at the beginning of a global pandemic. This was true for Bradlee Hicks of Diamond Brand Gear. Only after a month on the job, we sat down (virtually) for a talk. Despite the short period of experience with Diamond Brand Gear, learning his new role, and adapting to the current times, Bradlee was able to shed deep insight into the legacy and ethos of the company.


01_BCH9966.600pxPG:  Describe what Diamond Brand gear makes?

DBG:  Our primary manufactured items are canvas wall tents, made for summer camps. They are very durable and made to last for decades, with proper care.


We also make helicopter covers for a company called Cocoon. They provide these helicopter covers to the military and hospitals. The helicopters are very sensitive so everything has to be covered when they are not in use so they will function properly. This is one of the many facets of our essential businesses.


A small part of our factory is dedicated to Shibumi, that is essentially a tent shade. It is an unsupported, bendable tube of fabric that blows in the wind, creating a large square footage of beach shade. It’s a very smart product.


Additionally, we’ve been producing PPE. A lot of people out there are doing masks, and need that work to sustain their business. Because we have a larger facility and larger equipment, we were able to make gowns. The other day we had an all-hands-on-deck operation and produced 4,000 gowns in 2 hours. It’s been really cool being a part of that and helping to produce these things that have been difficult to come by, and fortunately, we have the capacity to produce them.



PG:  Did someone reach out to you to make them?
DBG:  A lot of our production of PPE has been in coordination with the Carolina Textile District. To streamline efforts and meet the need for this, they’ve been helping to coordinate with all of the smaller manufacturers in the area. We have also been helping with cutting fabric for masks because we have large cutting machines.


PG:  Have they been distributed locally?

DBG:  Yes.


PG: The high diversity of who you serve. Your ability to be malleable and act quickly also shows you must have very good operational systems in place, just to switch over to the PPE. That sounds like quite a big undertaking.


“It’s a testament to the leadership, and the amazing craftspeople that make our gear.” Bradlee says.




PG:  What makes Diamond Brand Gear’s values, culture, and vision special?

DBG:  We have a staff meeting every morning and go through the 50/50 profit-sharing program, where 50% of all gross profit goes back to employees. This also helps promote efficiency with performance, and helps us with our strive to be a zero-waste company. We also practice LEAN manufacturing principles. This helps put money back into employees pockets, and is a symbol of the collaboration we have here. 


We have a small team, around 55 people that work here. There is a lot of collaboration between researchers, developers, and creators of the  products. It is all very much like a family.


Another interesting thing: 80% of our employees are women. There’s the CEO, John Delaloye, myself, and a handful of other guys on the staff, but aside from that, the business is very much driven by women. I think it’s a refreshing thing to see in business and a cool thing to be a part of.


PG:  Do you sell online only?01_BCH9878.600px

DBG: The bulk of our business is probably done in person, as a result of our industry relationships, but in general our business model is direct-to-consumer and online, though we do have gear for sale to factory visitors. (Diamond Brand Gear CEO) John Delaloye explained the pricing markup of both wholesale and retail to me once, and by doing direct to consumer, you’re able to shed so much cost for the customer. It’s a model that I think we’re going to see more of. I’ve seen a lot of businesses during COVID, by necessity, doing direct to consumer. It’s a good time to get people more familiarized with this model.



PG: Besides making PPE for the community, I hear you also created a Pay What You Can program. Can you tell me about that?

DBG: The Community Deals Program started with a question: “How can we help people get the gear they want or need in this time, but do it in a way that is not self-serving?” CEO John Delaloye came up with this plan of Pay What You Can. We offer three tiers of pricing. The top tier is the “Community Hero” pricing, which allows you to pay extra. The idea is that this tier supports the lower tier pricing which is the Friend in Need. Essentially, you have people saying, ‘I can afford to pay a little bit extra, so that DBG can give a bigger discount to people that are having a harder time.’


Everyone could just pay the least amount possible, but we’ve had a substantial amount of people pay more, or just the suggested middle tier, The Gear Enthusiast tier. So that’s an exciting program. We’d like to look at launching future products with this pricing structure.


PG: I love it. It shows the support and loyalty to your brand. There’s that reciprocation, community feel. That’s special.

DBG: Yes, we have had a lot of community support. We make everything right here, and they value that. Fortunately, we haven’t been hit that hard in this area from COVID, but, if it gets to that point and we didn’t have these local resources, where would we be?



“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”  ~ John Muir


So the next time you’re out at Roan Mountain, say, breathing in the cool mountain air that defines such an altitude, resting for a bit, having just travailed through the Boreal forest, up the grassy bald, now filled with awe at seeing the infamous Gray’s Lily, that, because of the unique web of geology and plants found here, is one of the only places it exists: thank yourself for getting out there; thank Asa Gray for taking note of it in 1840; thank Diamond Brand Gear for making the Free Spirit Tent that will provide you shelter for the night; and thank your neighbor, for the great job they did sewing it.

{PHOTO CREDIT: Diamond Brand Gear}

{To keep us all connected, and lift up our community’s businesses, we are still conducting Client Spotlight interviews by telephone. Sign up here – we’d love to speak with you.}

WELCOME, JODI!  Jodi McCall is the newest Bookkeeping Specialist at Platinum group. Jodi is a Hickory, NC native who just moved to the Asheville area in March. Before relocating Jodi resided in Boone NC for four years after graduating from Appalachian State University with an Accounting degree. Jodi spends most of her free time with her husband and 15-month-old son. Although it is an interesting time to start a new job Jodi is excited to be part of the team, and we are so glad as well!


COVID-19 Weekly Webinar Series

For the past two months, and ongoing into the near future, we are providing updates to the ever-changing employment law and loan options to our community of businesses.

To receive invitations to future webinars, sign up here.

View recordings here


How 36 Million Unemployed by COVID-19 Changes the Hiring Landscape

The unemployment numbers are devastating from one perspective. But like all things in business, new circumstances mean new opportunities. If your company is currently hiring, suddenly there are 36 million professionals out there in need of new Covid-adapted employment.

Read more



As we have all been navigating these difficult times together, I wanted to extend my gratefulness to those that have been by my side over these many weeks: Sabrina Presnell Rockoff & Murphy Horne Fletcher from McGuire Wood & Bissette, and Sandra Dennison from the SBTDC. Thank you all for your tireless efforts to help our community.

And to our guest speakers: Lockhart Taylor, Assistant Secretary of the NC Division of Employment Security; Ken Kaplan, Kaplan CFO Solutions; Matthew Groome, Colton Groome & Company; Timothy Love, Buncombe County; Clark Duncan, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce: thank you all for bring your knowledge and expertise, willing to serve on short notice, as important developments in pandemic support emerged.

And lastly, I would like to extend an invitation to us all to listen, be kind, and be curious to learning all we need to know to make our world an equitable one. Thank you, Desiree Adaway for your Whiteness at Work webinar series. It is helping me understand what work I need to do, and what helpful role I can contribute towards creating a just and inclusive society. 

Be Well,



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