By consciously buying American-made goods, consumers can boost the economy and support entrepreneurship — all while enjoying quality local products.
Most of the household products we rely upon have made their way to us from far-flung locales — you need only to locate the “Made in China / Bangladesh / India” tag on your favorite pair of blue jeans as proof. But it wasn’t always this way: for most of the 20th century, according to theTrumpet, American manufacturers filled the market with quality merchandise, and provided millions of blue-collar workers with well-paid jobs. However, the ready availability of cheap labor overseas has led many manufacturing businesses to cut their costs by outsourcing labor — and eliminating a large segment of the American job market in the process. In 2006, the manufacturing industry employed less than half of the workers it did in 1965.
The statistics paint a bleak picture. But America loves a good underdog story — and thanks to workers’ grit, originality and determination, along with new opportunities presented by social media and the rise of the sharing economy, American manufacturing is ready for another round.
Punching Above Their Weight
The rise of the freelance economy has brought about a renaissance for American manufacture. Independent craftsmen and artisans are thriving, using social media and online stores to connect with their target consumers. In contrast with traditional large-scale manufacturing, the independent crafting economy is a meritocracy: the best craftspeople get attention through word of mouth and social sharing. For instance, when jewelry maker Mat Brown repaired a cracked chestnut shelf with glow-in-the-dark resin, the eerily beautiful result gained thousands of upvotes on Reddit’s /r/diy subreddit, and quickly went vira.
Successful small artisanal businesses know their customers intimately — often because they get their start making products to meet their own needs — and in the process, answer an unmet need in the market. Part-time model and photographer Amy Doan, for example, was unsatisfied with the makeup available on the market; so she developed her own highly pigmented, cruelty-free products to create her signature looks. When Sugarpill cosmetics launched, demand was immediate and the brand’s popularity explosive: it now has over half a million Facebook followers, and was chosen as the official makeup brand for Hello Kitty’s 35th anniversary.
Both Brown and Doan achieved the kind of viral popularity and customer loyalty that corporate brands dream of. With a tiny fraction of their modest marketing budgets, they created unique, visually appealing products which reflected their own taste and personal beliefs. This business model has proven successful for a variety of independent companies with seemingly dubious prospects: Rick’s Place Coffee Shop, for example, would seem a risky investment on paper.
Monmouth, Oregon is a small town largely sustained by its student population, which is absent four months out of the year. However, by pursuing a personalized and highly unique business model, Rick and Mary Gydesen have amassed a core of loyal customers, some of whom have been drinking coffee there for decades. Starbucks might offer a wide range of standardized products, but they can’t replicate Rick’s cozy mom-and-pop feel.
Serving Your Country
When Sugarpill fans apply eyeshadow and Rick’s Place customers sip their coffee, they’re not just enjoying a quality product: they’re supporting their communities and their economy. When you buy American, you get more than an ethically produced, well-made product — you make a real difference in the lives of American workers, as well as the nation’s economy, at both the local and national level.
A study by consultancy Civic Economics found that of $100 spent in locally owned stores in Chicago, $68 remained in the Chicago economy, compared to only $43 for chain stores, according to U.S. News. MadeintheUSA.com asserts that “If every American spent an extra $3.33 on U.S.-made products, it would create almost 10,000 new jobs.” Globally, the sharing economy generates $15 billion in revenue every year, a figure that is predicted to rise to a whopping $335 billion by 2025, as PwC explains.
Choosing to buy products made by American artisans supports budding entrepreneurs and encourages them to express their ingenuity, strengthens community bonds, and puts much needed revenue back into the American economy. So if you’re asking what you can do for your country, you could start by exercising your right to vote — with your wallet.
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(Image credit: Maialisa/Pixabay)