Michelle Carne on growing the family business
May 1997 was a big month for MICHELLE CARNE. The California native married her husband, JON, and they bought first home together in the Golden State. She and her husband-turned-business partner also started the first of four companies they’d eventually found, JMJE, Inc. It’s affectionately named after the first initials of their family members — Jon, Michelle, Jacob, and Ethan. A third son eventually joined their family later down the line.
In addition to JMJE Inc., an apparel and accessories manufacturing company, the Carnes own three other businesses. They include Legacy Knitting, an OEM sock, beanie, and beverly manufacturer; SOCCO, a USA-made 1970s lifestyle sock and apparel brand; and Port City Apparel, a branding and decorative apparel and promo company based out of Wilmington.
As for how Michelle Carne and her family ended up in the region, it’s largely due to crazy California traffic and the cost of living. They asked Jon’s grandfather where they should relocate to because he’d visited all 50 states. He suggested his favorite spot — North Carolina. So, the Carne family, in addition to Jon’s parents, Michelle’s mom, and Jon’s grandfather, uprooted and settled in Wilmington in July 2006, and they’ve been here ever since.
For Michelle Carne, having a family-run business was the clear solution for how she’d be able to put the two most important things at the forefront of her life — her family and her faith. During the first two years of her marriage, Michelle Carne worked full-time in the corporate setting while Jon Carne worked building their business. As their business grew, she was able to work part-time from the comfort of her home and raise her sons.
Today, she and Jon work full-time between their four businesses, allowing them to have the work-life balance they crave.
“Our goal was for this to be a family business and ultimately our kids to come on board and join us and work within the company,” she says.
Currently, the Carnes have more than thirty years of business experience under their belt. Getting there took some effort on their part, and noticing market trends, especially in the late 2000s.
“In 2009, we saw a niche in the decorated apparel and branding space for auto dealerships, pharma, and corporate clients in the energy and food services spaces,” Michelle Carne says. “We formed Port City Apparel to improve the process and brand selection for our clients nationwide. Today, we have over 1,000 clients coast to coast and service 200 in the Cape Fear region.”
Some of Port City Apparel’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, local breweries, mom-and-pop restaurants, nationwide distributors, military squadrons, and more. The company strives to develop relationships with its clients and cites its biggest strength as having in-house art and production teams.
In 2020, they purchased embroidery and sewing machines, moving a good portion of the company’s production in-house. Between their businesses, the Carnes have twenty employees, with fourteen of them being for Port City Apparel.
“Growth over the years has been steady for the past 14 years,” Michelle says. “We’re very blessed to have an amazing team that brings passion and skill to the process with the result benefitting our clients. Incredibly, our business has grown 30% annually during the pandemic years, and we’re posited to sustain that in 2023 and 2024 and beyond.”
To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to dariaphoto.com
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