Made in USA – What it means to me, and to Standard Handmade
It’s thrown around a lot, the term Made in USA. Like all phrases that get over-used, it’s lost some of its meaning. Sometimes I don’t even hear it when someone states it, and often I’m not sure if I’m being told the truth when I hear it.
Even still, it is essential to me, and Standard Handmade.
To be clear: My company would be 10 times easier to run and manage if I outsourced the manufacturing to Spain, or Chile. My personal labor time would be a fraction of what it is now and I’d not have to worry about hiring or training anyone. I could focus more on marketing, sales, systems, etc… I’d see more of my wife and my kid as well as my friends. I’d have more time to enjoy hobbies. I’d get more vitamin D and more sleep. Right now my day starts at 5:15am and ends around 12am.
This is what most people do. In fact most of the people who start shoe companies don’t know how to make shoes themselves.
So why don’t I outsource?
It is because I have a conviction that my shoes should be made here, and made by me, or people I train and have a working relationship with.
I do it because I love it – not because it’s about making a profitable business to sell and become rich. In doing it this way I build a culture of integrity around my business. There is more authenticity when I speak about my footwear. I know the ins and outs of the process because it is my process. I even write the client’s name in several places during the making process – It’s something you’ll never see but is in the layers of the shoes. I do this so that I don’t mistake one client’s shoes for another’s. I bring this up only to say that I take the process of making your shoes personally. I have a responsibility to deliver a pair worthy of your feet and I don’t take that lightly.
Make no mistake - I like, and need, to make money like everyone else. I’m not some idyllic saint who raises his family on kale broth and rice while constructing his home from the timbers on his property (although I know how to). I believe in eating well and living well. I believe in finding ways to afford the things I need and want. I believe in working hard and being compensated accordingly. And I believe in enjoying the fruits of my labor and spoils of my victory. I also believe in being a generous and reciprocating the gestures.
But, in my life there is also a need to do something I believe in while utilizing my best skills. My best skills in life are my ability to use my hands constructively, use my mechanical reasoning to put things together, and think creatively to express and produce new ideas.
I cannot fake it. It is my great joy to use my hands – It delivers a sense of accomplishment and pride in myself far beyond the ability of sending an email or creating a marketing campaign. My success relies upon using my talents optimally and bringing value to the world around me through them.
My goal is that the work of my hands can bring you joy and some level of happiness. If nothing else, the confidence that your purchase is wise. You know that you will have the best pair of shoes out there, made honestly by a guy who supports his family the same way you do.
That is why I make everything in house, in Houston, TX where I live.
The US is my home. I am fortunate to live here and I know the truth of that. I have visited many less fortunate countries, volunteered in orphanages, built community gardens, and brought water and food to many distressed groups overseas. What I have in my life – I do not take lightly.
That being said, because I live in the US it is my goal first and foremost to belong to, add value to, and build my culture and community first. I have watched our nation hand over our ability to manufacture almost everything to other nations. We have forgotten that we are a nation of makers, doers, and innovators, and we have moved towards being a nation of consumers.
I cannot just let that happen. I am committed instead to bring shoemaking back to our nation, to create meaningful jobs, to educate, and to connect with people in the US through my work. A nation who relies on other nations for sustenance, has lost its freedom. It is at the mercy of the other nations. We cannot forget who we are in the contagiousness of consumerism.
Beyond all of that, I think of my business as part of an ecosystem. In the forest there is no waste, and between the animals, insects and plant life, everything that is needed to sustain life is cycled over and over to extend the reach of, and enrich the forest.
Let’s say my business is a tree in the ecosystem. Let’s say it’s an orange tree. The orange tree produces fruit, the animals eat fruit of the tree. In exchange they leave their poop. In most cases however, the tree can’t use the poop the way it is, so the insects come along and process the poop so it can be absorbed by the tree. Then the tree’s leaves fall and cover the rich ground to keep it soft and moist. This causes the worms and other ground dwelling organisms, including microorganisms, to surface and circulate the soil into the ground, which in turn refuels the orange tree so that it can grow and produce oranges again, likely more than the previous year.
If I outsource everything to other nations I disrupt the natural ecosystem that wants to flourish. I could sell all of the Oranges elsewhere but I’d have to find new soil each year instead of allowing the system to amend the soil on its own.
You see, in nature it’s not really survival of the fittest. Perhaps it is survival of the fittest within the same herd, as say, the antelope compete for grass or dodge predators amongst one another. If you pan out however, you see that the grass needs the antelope, just as much as the antelope needs the grass. Also, I’d argue the herd needs the predator just as much as the predator needs the herd. Predators pick out the wounded, the slow-moving, the sick and the undernourished. In this way they make the herd better, healthier – which in turn makes the ecosystem healthier.
Business is not unlike nature.
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