Sharma Family from left to right: Ashrey, Archana, Sidharth and Karishma
By Graziella DiNuzzo
Sidharth (Sid) Sharma has been a textile engineer for forty nine years and his wife Archana (Arch) was once Director of Quality control for a medical device company. “We wanted a better life for our two college-bound children, Karishma and Ashrey so in 2005 we immigrated to the United States from India,” explains Arch.
As newly arrived immigrants, Arch continued working at her senior-level corporate job while Sid found work in a textile mill. When Sid’s employer declared bankruptcy in 2010, the Sharma’s decided to start their own manufacturing company. “We used our own family savings. We were newly arrived in America and didn’t have other resources,” says Arch.
AKAS Textiles was born in America with a commitment to manufacture only the highest-level sustainable textiles from raw materials sourced only from the USA. “When we came to the US, we brought along a mission to put American mills back to work, and to return pride and global leadership to this country’s textiles industry. In six years, we’ve added more than 650 jobs to the trade, and increased production at our mills from two to four days a week,” says Sid.
In 2012, AKAS bought Wazoodle, a Canadian textile company, “they had great products that aligned with ours, including absorbent and organic fabrics. We made the leap and never looked back,” says Arch.
Ashrey Sharma, Director of AKAS and Wazoodle Fabrics explains, “We manufacture a total of 427 products with a total of 2073 stock keeping units (SKUs).”
"Our focus is also on using yarns derived from re-cycled bottle waste (Repreve Brand for polyester yarns from Unifi) and Post-Consumer waste for GRS-Cotton yarns (Certified by the Global Recycle Standard). Also, by manufacturing our fabrics entirely on US soil, we help diminish our carbon footprint for every product we create. Minimal travel of the raw materials and fabrics. Then, the finishes we use, are non-toxic - producing fabric that has a very high level of functionality with a very low level of environmental impact or any negative health impact on the user,” explains Arch.Industries which include fashion, self-care, industrial, oil, automotive, sorbent, furniture, medical, fashion, accessories and military have all used AKAS products.
Arch adds, “Our fabrics have gone up in space! They have also been a part of the Winter Olympics and underwear for fighter plane pilots.”
Arch provides more detail, “For our Zorb - which is our absorbent fabric - we see uses from diapers to chef’s jackets, menstrual pads to cage liners. Even hydroponic gardening and filtration of salt water!
For our ProCool series we see a lot of fashion innovations in sportswear specifically.
Our FoodSAFE fabrics are used for reusables in the kitchen including baggies, wet bags, bowl covers, un-sponges, liners, un-paper towel & more. Our ProECO line, which features our organic cottons, are used for everything including towels, head wraps, nursing pads, and robes. Our medical grade PUL is used in the medical industry for gowns, bed covers, furniture upholstery & more.”
At AKAS every phone call and email is answered. “I love hearing from our clients. Through our retail store, Wazoodle, we are able to service smaller quantities to entrepreneurs who have an idea and a dream. I once received a call from a mom who was working on a product she hoped to launch for hikers and we talked through what she may need,” said Arch.
When American inventor, Dr. David Pensak called, he was looking for small quantities of specialized fabric to test his idea. Other textile manufacturers had been unresponsive. After visiting with AKAS facility, Dr. Pensak found what he needed to develop a specialized fabric that would contain the right permeability, thickness, insulation, and impact absorption. Using AKAS fabric technology that is washable, durable and anti-bacterial, Dr. Pensak invented AlchemIce, cooling pouches used for food storage and pain reduction applications by delivering consistent cold temperatures for hours without frost damage. AlchemIce technology is also used to transport human organs for transplant surgeries.
Today AKAS has distributors in France, the UK and Australia and they export to Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South America, Africa and Asia.
“We are finalizing a new distributor relationship in South Africa as well as South America.”
When COVID-19 hit the world, AKAS remained open for business and lobbied to allow mills to resume production. “Our UK distributor was in lock down and questions began coming in from Japan and other places on how to make your own fabric masks. We became the reference point for masks. Our warehouse was completely wiped out of inventory and our website crashed. But our distributors sold more material than the previous year. Everything was discounted. We did not advertise, we wanted to serve the people. We also learned that our fabric masks are 72% more effective than other fabrics on the market. ”
In 2021, AKAS was named 2021 Exporter of the Year by the Export – Import Bank of the United States (EXIM). The Exporter of the Year Award recognizes American businesses who use EXIM funding to provide jobs and export goods. Since 2013 EXIM’s small-business financing products have helped AKAS to offer credit terms to international customers and use working capital to fulfill export sales orders. “When we set up the manufacturing in 2010, our 1st Order was for an Export customer in Canada and when Arch heard about EXIM Bank at a conference in 2013 that was when the Exports started increasing,” said Sid. “In 2022, our exports were 25% of our two companies’ total revenue.”
Why was the company named AKAS? “We decided to use the first initials of our family Hindi names,” explains Arch. Archana means prayer, Karishma miracle, Ashrey Shelter or Safe Haven, and Sidharth successful, and one who has accomplished all goals (the name of Lord Buddha in Buddhism).
The AKAS name is the Sharma family story, which includes staff, clients and vendors emanates from its name. “We prayed for a miracle to have a safe space for our family and everyone we encounter to achieve success.”
Grow your small business internationally with help from the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia
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