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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo

Keaton Hendricks shares Sky Manufacturing mission

The business journey of a Taylor alumnus

Keaton Hendricks graduated from Taylor University in 2018 already having founded what was then Sky Outfitters out of his dorm room in Bergwall. 

In 2016 during his sophomore year at Taylor, Hendricks started Sky Outfitters, now called Sky Manufacturing which creates socks and other apparel for separate stores and helps develop brands for those stores nationwide. 

His passion for clothing began by selling used shoes his freshman year, but he later decided that he wanted to do something different. 

“I wanted to do something and create a business and see kind of how it spun up,” Hendricks said. 

Hendricks then began an E-commerce website and brand. He was able to reflect his passion for giving back to homeless shelters through his brand.

“We did that through a buy one give one model where for each pair of socks sold, we donated one to a local homeless shelter,” Hendricks said.

He and his roommate would order as many pairs of socks as they possibly could. They would then load the products up and bring them to their dorm room. 

“We gave up couches, TVs, all that and it was just boxes of product,” Hendricks said.

In the early years, they would get the orders ready and take them to the post office, then head to basketball practice after. 

Hendricks played basketball at Taylor for all four years while managing a business. He even scored the tenth point during the annual Silent Night game his freshman year.

Sky Outfitters continued for five more years, until Aug. 20, 2021, when they began Sky Manufacturing. 

In the beginning, Hendricks had it upon his heart to give back to people less fortunate than himself. He also wants to continue to grow Sky as a company as he moves forward. As Sky moved into manufacturing, their core goals remain the same, but they have had to achieve them differently.  

“It’s now like working with these brands and working with these stores that we service, to create the best product out there and to be able to give them, and make it a win-win relationship,” Hendricks said.

The rest of Hendricks’ team at Sky respect him highly and highlighted the fact that Hendricks was willing to find the right people to learn from. 

“Keaton wasn’t afraid to find the right mentors,” said Clay Riggins, a member of Sky’s team.

Now Hendricks believes that Sky Manufacturing has found its niche. He said there is great importance in being niche-focused and having a product-market fit.

Hendricks knows that what they're doing with Sky Manufacturing is not as simple as it was with Sky Outfitters, but he believes that they are doing the right thing.

Sky found their product-market fit, the degree to which a product satisfies a strong market demand, in 2019. 

“We felt like the market was demanding something and felt like we could step up to the plate and do it,” Hendricks said.

Since then, Sky as a company has been doing very well and in 2019 they hit their six-month goal of supplying socks for the Wheeler Mission, which is one of the biggest homeless shelters in the U.S. 

After they were able to do that, their sales grew and brands and stores started to know about them so they didn’t have to pitch their company because it had gained popularity.

Although they didn’t hit their yearly goal, Hendricks was ecstatic about the fact they were able to hit their six-month goal.

“So that was pretty cool! And you know, that was like, wow! I mean, just something that seemed impossible even to get halfway. I mean, way more than I was thinking we would do.” Hendricks said.

As for the future of Sky, Hendricks and his team hope to build an entire category of industries and have products for every season. They have made it a point to grow but not jeopardize their original values. 

“We want to grow but on our own terms,” said Clay Riggins of Sky.

Hendricks loves his job and the people he works with and is very appreciative of the people that helped him get to where he is. 

One thing about Sky Manufacturing that Hendricks enjoys is that everyone that works there graduated from Taylor so he enjoys sharing stories and laughs about their time at Taylor.

“I would really, really encourage people to rely on their relationships and network of Taylor alumni,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks now enjoys his job at Sky full time but also loves to be outdoors playing with his dog Brady who keeps him and his wife and him busy.