Sukie Jefferson from Sukie’s Candle Co., Elizabeth Cotton Allen from Elizabeth Cotton, and Dan Raymond from Boss Hammer Co. joined us for a special Cyber Monday digital event.
The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), that means we are spreading the word about the importance of shopping Made in USA.
On Monday — Cyber Monday, to be exact — AAM President Scott Paul chatted with three manufacturers whose companies were included in the 2021 Made in America Holiday Gift Guide about why they chose to make their products in the United States. The trio come from different locations and make decidedly different products, but all three share a commitment to manufacturing locally, supporting jobs and their communities.
“There’s a sense of pride and gratification for being able to source something locally, build something, build a community around what you’re providing, being able to hire locally, and seeing the ripple of effects of that, so that your community, particularly being here from the Pacific Northwest, people really like knowing that something’s made within a certain radius within their region,” said Sukie Jefferson, founder of Sukie’s Candle Co., which makes its products in Seattle.
“Every step of the process with what we produce is really intentional,” she added. “We’re really deliberate about all the ingredients, being nontoxic, being something that’s safe to burn in someone’s home… I took the time to build the business in a slow and beautiful and deliberate way, and it meant that I was able to be intentional about not only our ingredients, but about how and where we’re sourcing our materials as well.”
Elizabeth Cotton Allen’s luxury pajama company Elizabeth Cotton has made its garments in New York City’s historic Garment District since 2005.
“I had a background working in fashion, and I’d actually spent the first few years working in sourcing and production for Macy’s and a division of Target, and every factory we worked with was overseas,” she recalled. “When I was thinking about where to manufacture, my experience working for larger companies, was that most of the time, things ran smoothly. Factories really aimed to please customers of that size, but when something with an order did go wrong, it went really wrong, and you were thousands of miles away trying to manage a manufacturing issue, and really stuck negotiating a discount for a mistake that had been made rather than being there in the moment able to oversee things closely enough to prevent issues before they happened.”
As a business owner, you spend your own money on inventory and fabric, and you want to avoid mistakes, Allen said. So by manufacturing locally, you also are able to oversee production every step of the way. Along with not making mistakes, that means you also can turn out exceptionally well made products, Allen added.
“I love hearing from customers that they’ve been enjoying the same pajama set for eight to 10 years,” she added. “Clothing can last if it’s made really well, so that’s one of the reasons why we manufacture here.”
Dan Raymond has been in business for a shorter period of time compared to Allen — his Boss Hammer Co. launched during the COVID-19 pandemic — but he also maintains a commitment to making his award-winning hammer in Michigan, with materials sourced from companies located throughout the country.
“There’s no doubt there’s a groundswell, amongst especially tradesmen that I’ve talked to, that Made in America is very appealing,” he said. “Most people will look at a product that’s made here and are willing to pay a little bit more for it. It doesn’t give us the right there to go out there and charge a lot more, but I’m convinced that we can make better products here, for a little bit more money, and people definitely like that.”
Jefferson said that her email inbox is “bombarded” with options to source and manufacture her line of vegan, non-toxic candles abroad. But “there is a real beauty” to being able to tell your customers that every aspect of what your producing is sourced locally.
“I remember as a kid, back in the — and again, I’m dating myself — but in the ’80s growing up, you really felt like when you bought something, that it lasted forever, whether it was a toaster oven or if it was a pair of jeans, you felt like there was this quality, where things really lasted awhile,” she said. “And I think we kind of lost our way, over the years, you know? We sort of as a country we lost our way with sourcing really high quality products. So it’s really nice to see that there’s a sort of shift, this reemergence, this renaissance towards supporting craftsmanship and local makers, this artisanal slower production style where we really take pride in what we’re doing.”
There are unique issues when manufacturing in the United States, the makers admitted.
“I think that the biggest challenge that I’ve faced over the years has been the lack of different options,” Allen said. “I have an amazing factory I’ve worked with if for 18 out of the last 20 years, they do a beautiful job and I’m lucky to work with them. But if some reason if something were to happen to that factory, I don’t have a list of 20 other domestic manufacturers who would do just as great of a job.”
It’s those challenges that make it is so vital for companies to manufacture in the United States. When there’s more demand, more domestic manufacturing will emerge to meet it.
Like Jefferson, Raymond said that several people have told him to make his products overseas. But for him, manufacturing the Boss Hammer locally means creating something larger lasting.
“We’ve been able to build a great team of people, right here in the states, that they too are chasing their dreams and building their business, and I just think it’s a plus for everybody to do business within the states,” he said. “I’m looking to the future, both my kids and grandkids, that it’s important to build this economy and keep America strong.”
Allen noted that people who make their products in the United States tend to be enthusiastic about it and want to see more domestic production. So, her advice to those looking to make their products here is to start by talking to other manufacturers.
That extends to other small business owners as well.
“It’s really a ripple effect, of me being able to produce something and then provide a really beautiful, valuable product to some of these stores that are excited about sourcing locally,” Jefferson said. “So when they carry our candles on their shelves, they can really tell the story that this is a local-made product from someone who’s from the neighborhood.”