Innovating CEO of Flint and Tinder is Fulfilling the American Dream

Innovating CEO of Flint and Tinder is Fulfilling the American Dream

 

What kind of person does it take to decide, since there are no companies in America that produce premium underwear, that he would just have to do it himself? Does it take someone with an inspired imagination, someone that is always looking to the horizon for the next best thing? Or does it take someone that has impassioned motivation and perpetual drive? Or how about someone that is willing and excited to exercise their American freedom to make a name for themselves, stand out from the crowd, and do only the things that spell greatness? Maybe it takes someone that possesses all of the above, someone such as self-made man Jake Bronstein. Fifteen-time world record setter, inventor of the Buckyballs, and one of the original reality stars, years before reality TV ruled the airwaves, Jake Bronstein exudes confidence, certainty, and the courage to take a chance.

This story begins in 2011, when Jake was underwear shopping at Macy’s and realized that all of the premium underwear brands had seen more of the world than he had, as not one of them were made in America. This got him thinking. After checking the other retail stores in the area, he discovered that only one company produces underwear in the United States, and they aren’t exactly high quality. He decided that he would like to give American citizens an alternate choice, and introduce a well-made long-lasting pair of underwear that was completely made in the USA.

Jake began his search for a facility that would be able to take on his project, but he found that no American cut and sew factories were set up to produce underwear; most made t-shirts. After months of cold calls, he finally found a solar-powered t-shirt factory that would be willing to switch gears into underwear manufacturing to help bring Jake’s latest dream to fruition. This relationship would prove valuable to both parties, as the 100-year old factory had been hit with hard times during the recession of 2008, and had scaled back production at a loss of jobs. Jake’s vision allowed the factory to hire back more Americans immediately, and another new job has been created for every 1,000 pairs of underwear that have been ordered.

Next, Jake went to bank after bank, and they all turned him down for the $30,000 loan that he needed to get production rolling. One banker told him, “the only way to reignite American manufacturing is with a flint and tinder.” After realizing that the banks were not going to finance his idea, Jake decided to take his concept to his future customers, the American public.

In April of 2012, he started a campaign on Kickstarter, a website set up for fund-raising. In the video that Jake put up on Kickstarter, regarding the lack of underwear made in American, he appealed the American consumer by saying, “Don’t you think it’s time we did better? I think so, too.” Interest spread like wild fire. His fledgling company was christened Flint and Tinder in spite of the bankers’ discouraging off-the-cuff comment, and within days, an idea took root into something tangible with the pre-order of 10,000 pairs of American made underwear. When the 30-day campaign ended, Flint and Tinder had $297,000 start-up capital to produce the 30,000 underwear order, ten times more cash than Jake needed to get rolling. This round of funding was the largest that Kickstarter had ever seen as the previously most successful round of funding through the website had only reached $64,000.

Flint and Tinder’s American-made underwear were a success! Produced in Pennsylvania using soft, elastic bands woven in Florida, and high-quality Supima cotton grown in California, these undies were 100% American grown and manufactured. Even the tags, labels, and boxes are made in the USA. Jake wanted these high-quality undergarments to become his customers’ favorite underwear, that just so happened to also be made in America. Taking quality and comfort to the next level, customers were satisfied and put in repeat orders. Inspired by consumer confidence, Jake began to add more items to his clothing line, starting with undershirts.

By the time the first year of business concluded, Flint and Tinder had brought in 2 million dollars in revenue. To keep costs competitive, since it cost him five times more to produce underwear in America than it did for other companies producing overseas, Jake decided that Flint and Tinder would be an on-line store with no physical retail locations. Without rent, additional salespeople, and other overhead costs of managing a store, Flint and Tinder have been able to keep their prices in line with other premium underwear producers, such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. Although there is no on-the-ground location, the virtual store employs eight people, so Flint and Tinder is still providing employment beyond the manufacturing jobs it has created, and providing a deeper connection with their customer base, as most other manufacturers hide behind their distributors.

In Flint and Tinder’s second year of business, they launched another Kickstarter campaign to raise money for “The Ten-Year Hoodie”, a hooded sweatshirt constructed to last a lifetime, and guaranteed to satisfy for a decade. The guarantee includes ten years of free mending, although the hoodie is so over-constructed that free mending may be a moot point. Again, Flint and Tinder’s campaign broke all Kickstarter records and the raised capital of $1,057,000 far exceeded the company’s goal of $50,000. 12,500 Ten-Year Hoodies were pre-ordered, and manufacturing began with American-grown cotton and American-woven yarn. The unisex hoodies are hand sewn in a facility in Toluco Lake, CA with double seams and a hidden inner pocket. By the end of 2014, with the introduction of new clothing lines and the 10-year hoodie, Flint and Tinder’s revenues were more than 2.5 million.

Now Flint and Tinder have a full men’s clothing line, from socks to shirts, and have begun to introduce women’s wear. They have introduced accessories to their on-line store that are fully made in American but by different companies, such as candles, hats, belts, and wallets. In 2014, they had a promotional sale on their undergarments to introduce their products to new customers as well as give back to America– their promotion included sending thousands of premium undergarments to American soldiers stationed overseas. Flint and Tinder also recently started The Bluelace project to promote and give American manufacturing their own yellow ribbon.

What is next for Flint and Tinder? CEO and company mastermind Jake Bronstein wants to take production in-house. He says, “We’re in the process of building our own factories, building our own supply chain from the ground up.” From reality star to model to magazine editor to world record holder, Jake Bronstein is strategically and seemingly effortlessly navigating his newest role, that of an American manufacturing mogul.

Sources:

http://video.foxnews.com/v/2681360821001/small-business-flint-and-tinder/?#sp=show-clips

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-manufacturing-wants-back-in-your-pants-149773135.html

http://www.bizjournals.com/prnewswire/press_releases/2014/07/22/NY73897

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/09/10/flint-tinder-aims-to-make-american-made-underwear-must-have-accessory/

http://nymag.com/news/business/boom-brands/flint-tinder-2013-10/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jake_Bronstein

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/flint-tinder-case-study-american-100000481.html

http://www.ecouterre.com/flint-and-tinder-brings-mens-underwear-manufacturing-back-to-the-u-s-a/

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/05/made-in-america-finding-inspiration-in-underwear/

http://nymag.com/news/business/boom-brands/flint-tinder-2013-10/

https://recordsetter.com/user/jakebronstein

Children Being Poisoned by Chinese-Manufactured Products Containing Lead

Children Being Poisoned by Chinese-Manufactured Products Containing Lead

Lead is a malleable, highly available and naturally occurring heavy metal.  Because of it’s ease of use and accessibility, lead has been used in manufacturing since 6400 BC.  Historically, it has been a major ingredient in gasoline, paint, batteries, radiation shields, and bullets.  Lead was found to be poisonous in the early 1900’s, especially to children, which led to strict regulations and oversight in American manufacturing, but other countries, such as China, have not yet taken steps to prevent it’s use.  Lead is inexpensive which is major factor in keeping manufacturing costs and product prices down.

Lead poisoning is an accumulative process as the lead is stored in bones and soft tissue, much like mercury, another heavy metal.  In children, the toxicity levels are higher than if an adult was exposed to the same amounts since gastrointestinal absorption of lead is enhanced in childhood.  An adult would only absorb about 10% of ingested lead compared to 50% in a child.  Since young children put more inedible items in their mouth than adults do, either out of curiosity or due to teething, children are at a higher risk for exposure if the items were decorated with lead paint.

Lead poisoning is toxic to all humans and animals, but is especially detrimental to the developing mind of a child.  Minor toxicity levels will affect cognitive skills, weaken immune systems, disrupt reproductive organs, induce central nervous system disorders, and change behaviors and attitudes of the affected person.  These effects are permanent and cannot be reversed through treatment or medicine.  Acute poisoning leads to more severe consequences of brain damage, and can include coma, convulsions, mental retardation, attention deficit disorder, and other behavioral disruptions, if not death.

Since the uptake levels are higher in children, and retention is permanent, if lead poisoning is widespread in a nation, the next generation of the population’s citizens will have a collective lower IQ as there will be a higher instance of diminished intelligence and mental retardation.  This results in a society obsolete of citizens with superior intelligence, which reduces a nation’s science and technology progression, and causes a lack of future leaders.  To prevent this from happening in America, lead paint was outlawed in 1962, and strict laws were put into place in regards to lead content in furniture, toys, and other products for children, updated again in 2009.

Even with laws governing the use of lead in manufacturing, lead poisoning in children is still a major problem in the America, with lead poisoning being 0.6% of all disease.  As of 2010, approximately 43 billion dollars are spent annually dealing with this ongoing crisis in the US.  Diminished intelligence in children due to lead poisoning results in the need for specialized and remedial education programs in American schools.

So, if there are strict regulations in American manufacturing, how are American children still being poisoned by lead?  The answer is imported products whose countries of origin don’t have strict regulations, or don’t uphold their regulations.  China has proven to the US that they continue to use lead in their manufacturing, even for American companies that outsourced production to China.  In 2007, there was a major product recall of items that were produced in China due to safety measures not instituted.  Among the list of toxic, defective, or dangerous products were toys, children’s jewelry, baby bibs, and toothpaste.  (Along with recalls for tires, dog food, tools, and computer batteries.)

In August 2007, Fisher-Price recalled 83 types of Chinese-made toys because their paint contained excessive amounts of lead, much more than the national allowance of 0.06% (300 parts per million) of total lead content by weight in any part of the product.  (Tighter regulations are adhered to for surface lead exposure, such as in paint.)  These plastic toys recalled included the very popular characters of Diego and Dora the Explorer, and Elmo and Big Bird from Sesame Street.  That recall consisted of 967,000 unsafe toys.

A few weeks later, Mattel recalled 436,000 toy cars of the character “Sarge” from the popular movie “Cars”.  The die-cast metal cars were covered in lead paint and about half of the 436,000 recalled toys had already been distributed in the US.

In different findings, laboratory results showed a high level of lead in vinyl baby bibs that were produced in China and being sold at Toys’R’Us stores across the USA.

In a 2010 study of new Chinese paint samples, half of the 58 samples tested contained a high level of lead, equal to or more than 600 parts per million.  In America, the new regulations put into effect in 2009 allow no more than 90 parts per million of lead by weight to be in surface paint (a maximum of  0.009%), so these Chinese paint samples are more than six times higher than what the American regulations will allow.

Lead poisoning is a major problem in China with at least 10% of their children’s population being affected.  The children of China are not only poisoned by lead in paint, but also by lead in food, water, medicine, and the environment in areas of lead mining.

In 2013, Australian regulation agencies discovered high levels of lead in Chinese-canned peaches.  The levels were twice the amount legally permissible under New Zealand and Australian food standard.

In September of 2014, a toddler in New York City was poisoned by high levels of lead in an imported Chinese herbal cold remedy.

With all the empirical evidence found about the effects of lead poisoning, especially detrimental in children, one would think that foreign manufacturers would move away from the use of lead.  This is not happening in China, the second highest manufacturer in the world.  They are still relying on this cheap material that produces vivid colors in paint and resists corrosion, and slowly kills and retards the world’s citizens.  America, on the other hand, the top producer in the world of manufactured goods, does adhere to the strict standards set forth by regulation, and will continue to do so.  The clear choice would be to go with American made products, avoiding the Chinese-produced products, even when they are distributed by an American company.

Sources:

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-03-29/news/29357943_1_output-labour-productivity-manufacturing

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/preventive-care/china-lead-poisoning.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/15/business/worldbusiness/15imports.html_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1187186596-oNS1R0lLuikAZXcqdzR/6Q

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/01/AR2007080102320.html

http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/leadguidance.pdf

http://www.foodmag.com.au/news/lead-in-chinese-products-furthers-push-to-can-impo

http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkroll/2014/09/28/lead-in-chinese-cold-remedy-poisons-toddler-fda-nyc-warn/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead

Meet Made in the USA Shopper & Blogger Bill Salawitch

Meet Made in the USA Shopper & Blogger Bill Salawitch

From New Year’s Day 2009 until the eve of the new year of 2010, blogger Bill Salawitch resolution was to buy only American made products.  This was no easy feat for him at first, but as the year progressed, he started to get to know the products, clothing brands and food stuffs that were Made in the USA, which made shopping a quicker task.  He blogged about the entire process, from his inspiration on why to do it, his initial thoughts and ideas on the self-made challenge, the problems he ran into, and the moral dilemmas that he was continually presented.  Bill struggled with his rules of the challenge; the further he got into his challenge, the more the questions popped up.  Were products produced in America but with foreign parts okay?  What about food prepared here with imported ingredients?  Could he purchase internationally made products if they were already used?  Also, what was his goal with this challenge?  Was he trying to change the way he consumed, or was he trying to help the American economy?  Or maybe just help the world’s environment?

At first, Bill had to get into the hard habit of checking the label every time he picked an item up at the store, and before he released it into his cart.  It was not an automatic action, instead he had to train himself to do it.  Then, Bill had to figure out what to do about the labels that claimed that the product was made in the USA, but made out of imported parts.  This was something that he ran into more often than not: beef jerky (jerked here but cows raised elsewhere), coffee (beans grown in tropics but roasted locally), shampoo and shoes were all items he had to decide about in the first five days of his challenge.

There were some things on Bill’s shopping list that he had to give up completely since it was a specialized product that did not have an American made version.  He felt that he had three options in these situations– give up on it, have someone else buy it for him as a gift, or look for it used.  He looked at Choice B as cheating, so he either shelved some of his desires, or bought them used.  Which was another situation that he considered and wondered about– if the item was originally made outside of the USA, then purchased new and used by someone other than himself, when Bill buys it used from the previous owner, does that mean that the foreign-made product was now ‘grandfathered’ into the US?  It’s not like his dollars were supporting the foreign manufacturer and suppliers directly.  Bill decided to cross the fuzzy line and accepted purchases from thrift stores and garage sales into his year-long challenge since there were plenty of items that he wanted or needed but could not find from a US manufacturer.  Basically, his take on it was that these foreign items that have already lived in the US for years or decades were akin to a naturalized citizen; originally an alien, but now an American.  Also, he liked the idea of recycling and reusing older items.

What about restaurant food?  Where did it come from?  For this aspect of the challenge, Bill decided to accept restaurant food as made in the USA since it literally was prepared, cooked and presented to him in the USA.  But where did the food really come from?  Was it grown or raised here in the United States, or brought in from elsewhere?  Although he stuck to food grown locally or in the US while shopping at a grocery store, he accepted the looser standard with restaurant meals, and ate them despite being unaware of where the food was originally raised or grown, since they were at least prepared in the US.

In the end, the challenge helped Bill Salawitch become a more informed consumer, reducing his consumption of things that he really didn’t need, and giving him freedom and empowerment.  He challenges you to try it, too, so that you think more about your purchasing decisions.

You can follow his year of buying only American made products at mitusa.wordpress.com.  (MITUSA is an acronym for Made In The United States of America).

The Cat’s Pajamas Keep Jobs in the US

The Cat’s Pajamas Keep Jobs in the US

In the 1920’s, the phrase “the cat’s pajamas” was coined to describe something or someone that was extremely cool, excellent, or the best, often associated with style or innovation, so it would be appropriate that incredibly comfortable and stylish pajamas that are hand stitched in the US would be called the same.  The Cat’s Pajamas is a relatively small company that employs eighty people in the San Francisco bay area to cut and sew 100% cotton flannel pajamas with interesting and whimsical prints.

The Cat's Pajamas Vintage Kittens Women's Cotton Pajama American Made
The Cat’s Pajamas Vintage Kittens Women’s Cotton Pajama

The Cat’s Pajamas company was founded in 1998 by best friends and Berkeley residents, Jenny Maxwell and Lynn Deregowski, whom met at Stanford University and shared a love for comfy pajamas.  They also shared a passion for supporting local community, and keeping jobs in the US; hence the modest company grew in the San Francisco bay area.  The company and it’s novel products gained notoriety when it’s conspicuous sushi-print PJ’s were worn by TV stars Debra Messing on “Will and Grace” and Sarah Michelle Gellar on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.  The company garnered further attention when it’s products were featured on “Entertainment Tonight”.

The Cat's Pajamas Women's Wasabi Sushi Cotton Flannel Pajama American Made
The Cat’s Pajamas Women’s Wasabi Sushi Cotton Flannel Pajama

Lynn was interviewed by China Ate My Jeans blogger Tina Pollito in 2011, and Lynn is cited as saying that for her, it is important to know your workers and to have first hand quality control over your product.  She says that it was easy to find skilled workers in the USA to create her product, and that the cost of keeping her company in America was not a problem.

Since their first TV appearance, The Cat’s Pajamas have been seen multiple times on various TV shows.  They have been on “30 Rock” numerous times, worn by Tina Fey, popularizing the cupcake-print PJ line.  They had several more appearances on “Will and Grace” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, worn again by Gellar, as well as Alyson Hannigan.  They were worn by Michelle Williams on “Dawson’s Creek”, Kim Woodburn on British reality show “How Clean is Your House?”, Alexis Bledel on “Gilmore Girls”, Selena Gomez, and Alison Brie on “Community”.  The June 2013 issue of GQ magazine featured a spread of a family modeling The Cat’s Pajamas’ sushi-print PJ line.

The Cat's Pajamas Cupcake Women's Cotton Pajama as seen on "30 Rock" American Made
The Cat’s Pajamas Cupcake Women’s Cotton Pajama as seen on “30 Rock” American Made

Besides sushi and cupcakes, there are many other fun prints to choose from, such as the Eiffel Tower, crossword puzzles, lovebirds, vintage owls, Japanese style cherry blossoms, snow globes, penguins, and of course, cats!  The recently added men’s line includes prints featuring baseballs, golf balls, footballs, cowboys, and mustaches.  This is only a peek at the extensive, zany catalog of pajamas and accessories.  And, best yet, they are Made in the USA!!!

The Cat's Pajamas Men's Mustache Cotton Pajama Pants American Made
The Cat’s Pajamas Men’s Mustache Cotton Pajama Pant

(Disclaimer: The cotton flannel line, which comprises most of the company’s product, is produced in the USA; Some of the knit line is produced in Peru.)

Sources:

http://onlineslangdictionary.com/meaning-definition-of/cat%27s-pajamas,-the
http://chinaatemyjeans.com/?p=321
http://chinaatemyjeans.com/?p=312
https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071009172645AANkzXt
http://www.thecatspjs.com/
http://www.gq.com/magazine/201306/fashion-directory

Why Buy American?

Why Buy American?

If you searched out this site, you probably have a pretty good idea of why to buy USA made products.  Let’s review some points just in case you stumbled upon this site.

If you are an American consumer, it is logical to buy American made products to support the economy that you are part of.  When you buy American made products, you are supporting the American economy and creating jobs in your wake.  Depending on what industry you work in, your livelihood may actually depend on consumers buying American made products, since not only are manufacturing jobs created, but a myriad of other jobs fall in line after the manufacturing of the product.  There is packaging to be made, storage, and shipping; there are also the machines and buildings used in the manufacturing of American made products– all of those need to be maintained and occasionally replaced.  It is believed that for every one manufacturing job created, there are five other jobs created such as truck drivers, accountants and other clerical managers, research and development scientists, and maintenance workers.  Because of this ratio, the loss of 5.5 million manufacturing jobs in America has resulted in a total of 30 million job losses, all due to the factories moving overseas.

When manufacturing first became popular in third world countries, it was explained to consumers that we are helping the world’s people put food on the table.  Now we are of the understanding that working conditions in these places are poor and unregulated.  Most of these global manufacturing districts allow underage workers, provide very low wages, and have no laws governing working conditions, so the workers, including children, spend long hours without breaks in polluted air, which eventually leads to cancer, exhaustion, and other health concerns.  Most over-seas workers cannot even afford the products that they are helping to produce!

It is also good to avoid imported products due to the impact on our environment, and the cost of fuel.  Shipping causes pollution and is a strain on this earth’s natural resources, driving up the price of oil as more and more is consumed and our supply is further reduced.  The burning of these diminishing fossil fuels are also sending unnecessary emissions into our world’s air, further destroying our tenuous ozone layer.  Most third world manufactures have little in the way of laws that protect the environment, so the products that you buy that are not made in the USA could be slowly killing the workers that make them, and grossly polluting the areas that they live in.  These factories are leaching heavy metals and chemical contaminants into the surrounding soil and the local water supplies.

When you buy American made products, you know that you are receiving a quality product, that has been regulated by agencies to make sure that the product is safe for you to enjoy, use, or consume.  You know that the environmental impact is less than those products produced in unregulated countries and shipped over.  You know that the workers that made your product are living a higher quality of life than the over-sees workers due to intense working regulations and minimum wage requirements.  You know that you are doing your part to create and sustain jobs for Americans, including possibly your own job.  That is just the icing on the cake.  There are many more reasons for buying goods made in the USA.

The Rise of 3D Printers will Help Revitalize US Manufacturing

The Rise of 3D Printers will Help Revitalize US Manufacturing

Not unlike the first computers, 3D printers used to take up much space and were as expensive as a house when they were invented by Charles Hull thirty years ago.  They are now readily accessible for almost anyone – home 3D printers weigh on an average of 25 lbs and can be purchased for as little as $500.  The same printer that was $20,000 ten years ago can be purchased for $1,000 today.  As 3D printers become cheaper and easier to purchase, more and more people and manufacturers are joining in on the 3D printing revolution.

3D printers build up objects by spraying liquidized layers of a material according to a programmed  design; traditionally the material was a plastic resin, but nowadays the 3D printers can also support other mediums, such as wood, metal, concrete, ceramics, and even food.  All sorts of complicated and impressive objects are being created, such as musical instruments, prosthesis, camera lenses, firearms, dentures, and robots.  Everyday mundane objects are also being created at home just as frequently, such as containers, phone cases, toys, models, and kitchen utensils.  Hollywood is using 3D printing for props including life-size models of expensive cars, and recently a Chinese firm proved that you could build a whole house, including the pipes and wiring, using a large 3D printer, in less than a day, and for less than $5,000.  Going above and beyond, they spit out ten of these homes in less than a day.

One interesting program allows the user to print all the parts (except the nuts and bolts) to build another 3D printer, then set that newly-built printer to work building another 3D printer, and so on.  With versatility such as this, manufactures only need to invest in one good printer, and the material needed to feed into the printer, then the world is their oyster.

As the trend strengthens, endless choices are popping up in the fields of software, printer capabilities, and product patterns, a lot of them shared as free downloads on user forums, and on popular websites such as http://www.thingiverse.com/. Besides the home based user, we are starting to see a positive upswing in US manufactures that utilizes 3D printers.  Now US manufacturers can easily print a prototype in one day, something that used to take a few weeks to complete.  They are also saving thousands of dollars, as a 3D printed plastic prototype that costs $80 would have cost $3,000 to be made one time in aluminum.  This is giving manufactures an edge– they can create better products faster and can test their products more efficiently and inexpensively before mass producing it for the market.

Besides 3D printing being less expensive and faster, it is a boon to the environment– traditional manufacturing creates a lot of waste as a product is refined by cutting away material, whereas a 3D printer will build up a product, leaving virtually no waste for the landfills.

How will 3D printing affect the US manufacturing scene?  According to Professor Richard A. D’Aveni, United States and other Western markets will be able to fill in a gap that China has not been able to fill with it’s large scale mass-production take on manufacturing: flexibility.  3D printing allows for small scale production with an eye on customization and versatility.  It is a more efficient way to produce because the product can be made to order, and then shipped locally and quickly with less resources wasted.  Professor D’Aveni says that the cost of shipping across oceans is still a detrimental factor in the Chinese manufacturing market and cannot be balanced by it’s underpaid workforce.

With the advent of affordable 3D printers, the trend of the past few decades will reverse and we will start to see jobs coming back to America, and a new vitality in US manufacturing.

Welcome to Buy USA Made Stuff

Welcome to Buy USA Made Stuff, your portal for all sorts of things that are Made in America

When I was ten, my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Johnson was very influential on my classmates and I.  She not only taught us reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also tried to impress upon us the importance of looking at the world as a bigger picture.  She had many strong opinions about politics, education, world affairs, and the greatness of the United States.  This was back in 1986, the year that the Space Shuttle Challenger was launched.  Mrs. Johnson felt that this was one of those defining moments that we must witness– not only was NASA sending American astronauts to outer space, they were also sending an American female school teacher for the first time.  Mrs. Johnson checked out a TV from our school library, and it was the only time I remember watching live television during school hours.  I remember the anticipation and excitement in the air as us kids counted backwards together until the launch, the amazement of this rocket blasting off in a wake of flames and smoke, watching it soar higher and higher, until suddenly it climbed no higher and instead was obscured by plumes of white smoke.  I was baffled since this was the first shuttle launch I witnessed– was this what was supposed to happen?  I could hear the confused murmurs of my classmates as I looked around the classroom.  I saw the smile dissolve from Mrs. Johnson’s face as she swayed a bit where she stood.  She had a white-knuckled grip on the edge of the nearest desk and became quite pale.  No, this is not what was supposed to happen.  Especially not in America.

You see, Mrs. Johnson was very patriotic and she tried to fix these same ideals on us children.  She encouraged us to vote when we were of age, she touted the importance of Unions in the workplace, and above all else she compelled us to buy American made goods.  Her fervor for this was akin to brainwashing, as she ended each of our school days with this mantra.  She would not excuse us from class until she reminded us to shop locally and buy produce that was grown in the USA, and merchandise that was manufactured in the USA.

Although she was able to forever stamp this statement into my young brain before I was set in my ways, I was too inexperienced to understand and act upon it.  My world was no bigger than my hometown, and I didn’t actively purchase anything except candy and donuts.  But now that I can look back at that time in my life, I can see how following her advice could have made a difference, especially in that era.  It was a time when a lot of American factories were closing their doors and moving production over seas, where companies could make more money.  They could avoid paying taxes, pay less to the foreign workers than they would have paid to American workers, and they didn’t have to deal with pesky unions, worker rights, and US standards of manufacturing, with it’s pollution regulations and safety policies.

My family was affected directly.  In 1983, my dad was laid-off from his long-time manufacturing job at a Donaldson’s factory when they shut their American doors and reopened overseas.  He had had that job for eighteen years, and would have retired from there in another decade and a half, but instead was left with nothing– no job, no pension, no reward for his loyalty.  From there, he could not hold down a job.  Every six months to a year, the factory that he was working at would close and he would get laid off.  Some of them were closing to reopen on foreign soil, while others were just going out of business since they couldn’t compete with the cheap prices of foreign products.

Because my mom was basically the sole bread winner of the family now with my dad seemingly always between jobs, we were poor.  When my brother and I grew out of our clothes, we looked to friends and relatives for hand-me-downs.  If there was nothing used available, then my mom would buy us cheap clothes manufactured in China, as we could only afford to shop at K-Mart, and even then we still needed to use their lay-away program.  Little did my mother realize that by doing this, she was helping America dig itself deeper into the hole we find ourselves in now.  It was a vicious cycle of my dad losing his job to foreign competitors, and us supporting the foreign competitors because their cheap prices were all we could afford.

Fast forward thirty years, and here we are now, in a nation that only produces a fraction of what we actually consume.  A nation that relies on Walmart instead of small, locally-owned and run businesses.  A nation that would be crippled and would starve if our import routes went down overnight.  I have understood for years the impression that Mrs. Johnson was trying to bestow upon my tender mind back in 1986, but I find myself now in the same vicious cycle as my parents’ struggle, but the new twist is  the fact that I can no longer readily find products made in America, weather I can afford them or not.

For the past three years, I have been looking for a soap dispenser that was made in America, to no avail.  Even the hand carved wooden dispenser at our local art fair, sold by the artisan that created it, had a Chinese-manufactured pump.  I have also been looking for salt and pepper grinders that were made in the USA, and thought I finally found them on the internet.  When they arrived at my home, I eagerly opened them and then was deflated when I saw the sticker on the front that said “Proudly Filled in the USA”.  OK, so there are American workers putting salt and pepper in foreign made shakers, and then tricking the public into buying them by advertising that they were made in USA, when really, they were not.  I’ve been tricked before– I tried to buy mixing bowls that were made in America, and was so excited to finally find some.  I peeled up the “Made in USA” sticker when I was washing them for the first time to find a stamp on the bottom of the bowl admitting that the bowls were really made in India.

This is when my husband and I saw the need to create a portal that sold products that were made in America, and I mean that were really made in America.  No tricking the customers into thinking that they are supporting American manufacturing only to find that the product was “Proudly Packaged in America” (another thing that has actually happened to me on my hunt for USA-made stuff).  Why not share all of our hard work of research and testing of the various products that are still made in America?  My husband and I have been buying products, using them, and then reviewing their quality and overall value for you with the hope that we will eventually be able to fill in all the gaps, and offer everything that you may ever need here on our American made site, including those ever-elusive soap dispensers.

Because You Can