Bernina’s tradition began in Steckborn, Switzerland in 1893. Today, Bernina is one of the world’s largest sewing machine manufacturers and the world’s only privately held sewing machine company. Bernina has been owned and operated by the same family for four generations and produces machines sold in more than 20 countries. Each year, Bernina sells approximately 100,000 Swiss-engineered machines worldwide, producing more than $200 million in international sales.
Bernina of America (www.berninausa.com) was established in 1969 in Chicago, where its headquarters still reside, to provide improved and more consistent service, training and education to independent Bernina dealers and Bernina consumers in the United States. Prior to this, a group of independent importers serviced its customers.
Bernina of America is led by its president, Martin Favre, who joined Bernina’s international headquarters in Switzerland in 1990 as an export-marketing manager for Western Europe, North America and South America. Favre joined Bernina of America in 1993 as marketing manager and was promoted to president in 1994.
Bernina of America sells approximately 65,000 sewing, serging and embroidery machines annually. The company has just over 100 full-time employees, including 80 who work in the Chicago office and 29 field employees located throughout the United States who travel to support Bernina of America’s strong dealer network.
Approximately 500 authorized Bernina dealers operate nearly 600 stores distributed throughout the 50 states. Each authorized dealer is an independent business operator who sells the full line of Bernina products. Roughly half of all Bernina authorized dealers are mono-brand dealers, meaning that they sell only Bernina machines.
Authorized Bernina dealers initially receive more than four weeks of instruction and education to prepare them not only to sell Bernina machines, but also to develop and sustain long-term education and service relationships with Bernina customers. Each year, authorized dealers also participate in a week-long Bernina University and specialized regional training classes to learn about the latest in machines, features, and sales and sewing techniques.
Today, the technology incorporated into a sewing machine is extensive. The electronic features on a Bernina machine can include one or more of the following features:
*Fully automated touch screen that places a variety of functions at the sewer’s fingertips;
*On-screen Buttonhole Measuring System, which allows the sewer to simply hold a button up to the touch screen for an exact fit;
*Embroidery design rescalability, which allows perfect design resizing by automatically recalculating the design stitch count to retain the original design’s integrity; and
*The patented Bernina® Stitch Regulator (BSR) is a revolutionary foot that has a sensor (similar to a computer mouse) that “reads” the fabric. When the fabric moves, the foot sensor is activated and even though the feed dogs are down, the stitches are regular and consistent. This allows the sewer to use freemotion techniques with ease.
According to Bernina, 65 percent of its high-end customers use a personal computer on a daily basis, and often they use the PC to support their sewing projects. Using the Internet, sewers can participate in chat rooms to discuss projects, problems, new techniques and new products. Sewers also can download new software and upgrades for their machines, sewing and embroidery patterns, and instructions to make everything from aprons to quilts. The personal computer has become so connected to sewing that many Bernina authorized dealers offer basic PC and Internet instruction classes in addition to extensive sewing classes. A PC soon will become a sewing tool that is as standard as a bobbin.
For generations, sewing has been an integral part of building strong family relationships and communities, with women being at the heart of handing down sewing traditions from generation to generation. Considering that a vast majority of Bernina owners and employees are women, the company’s charitable gift giving is concentrated on women-related issues.
Because breast cancer affects one in every nine women in North America, Bernina is extensively committed to raising money for and the awareness of breast cancer research. More than 50 percent of the company’s annual contributions are directed to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which is dedicated to eradicating breast cancer as a life-threatening disease by advancing research, education, screening and treatment.
In 1997, Bernina became more intensely dedicated to this cause when Gayle Hillert, vice president of education at Bernina of America, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Gayle searched for ways to reach out to others who were affected and designed a commemorative Bernina lapel pin that was sold through authorized Bernina dealers and on Bernina’s Web site, with proceeds benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Additionally, Bernina supports the Foundation by contributing a donation for each artista sewing machine and embroidery machine sold, and by forwarding proceeds from Bernina’s annual Bernina University (BU) Walk/Run event. This April a silent auction was held at BU featuring the art of well-known designers as well as offerings from many businesses. The silent auction raised over $20,000 for breast cancer research. To date, Bernina of America and its authorized dealers have contributed well over $500,000 to the Foundation.
Bernina of America also aims to improve the quality of life in the communities where its employees reside and in which Bernina does business. To meet this goal, Bernina proudly provides charitable donations to the following organizations:
*The Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, a 114-year-old organization offering hope and a second chance to children in the Chicagoland area who face a wide range of emotional, behavioral and family problems.
*Mutual Ground, Inc., an organization that since 1975 has operated a shelter for women and their minor children. Mutual Ground serves victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault in southern Kane and Kendall counties in Illinois.
In 2002, Bernina of America expanded its charitable giving efforts with a one-time fundraising campaign to benefit the Children’s Relief Fund of the World Trade Center Miracles Foundation, which provides immediate and long-term aid to children who lost a parent in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Bernina partnered with Oklahoma Embroidery Supply & Design (OESD), a subsidiary of Bernina of America, to produce and sell an embroidery design card titled “United We Stand” that features a unique collection of patriotic-themed embroidery designs created and donated by well-known designers. Bernina presented a check for over $117,000 to help these children and their families in January of 2003.
For more information, contact Mary Mikrut at 1-630-978-2500, extension 563 or e-mail email@example.com . Visit Bernina online at www.berninausa.com .