December 12, 2012
New York startup Maker’s Row, which launched in late October, is counting on the popularity of American manufacturing. They have a directory of around 1,400 US manufacturers with information like contact info, equipment available, and hours of operation. According to cofounder Matthew Burnett, companies who choose “made in the USA” can oversee quality without going overseas, communicate better with workers, and even stimulate the economy.
“Manufacturing is one of the ways that a country can innovate the most … so hopefully we can contribute to that,” says cofounder Tanya Menendez.
Before Maker’s Row, finding a manufacturer could be a colossal task. You had to ask around, dig through print catalogues, or attend trade shows. Burnett did this himself while working on Brooklyn Bakery, a fashion line of leather goods. “It would take us months to find the right manufacturer. … It was like going through a maze to find one,” recalls Menendez. They had settled on US manufacturing because of Burnett’s disappointing experiences in China, including a drawn-out production timeline and mangled shipments.
The team kickstarted Maker’s Row by manually creating 1,000 manufacturer profiles. Now, as on Yelp, factories can create their own profiles or “claim” a profile created for them. “We’re able to help people grow their business and we’re able to help these manufacturers be able to fill up their schedule,” says Burnett.
But manufacturing is an incredibly complicated process. According to Jake Bronstein, who founded an apparel line called Flint + Tinder that manufactures in the US, companies need much more than manufacturer listings to navigate it. Startups won’t be able to just telephone these manufacturers and tell them what they want to produce. To be valuable, he thinks, Maker’s Row needs more feedback, advice, and reviews on how to work with particular factories. And, in fact, Menendez is working on getting designers to post more reviews.
“What it is though, which is even more important, is a place to inspire others to take the plunge,” Bronstein says. “Part of their mission seems to be taking people who are just thinking of making something, and getting them moving on the path to actually making something, by inspiring them to take the leap. That’s no small feat. … Anyone supporting American manufacturing in any way is a great thing.”
If Apple sparks a “made in the USA” trend, companies know where to turn.
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