Supporting American Made Products

Voting with dollars:

"Vote with your dollars" is probably a phrase with which you are familiar. The more I've learned about buying and selling handmade, American made products, the more I've appreciated the bigger picture behind this concept.

A couple years ago, before I started my business making wooden things, I was the manager of a college book store. The book store functioned mostly around selling textbooks to students. Textbooks are famously expensive, and many college book stores get a bad reputation because of the textbook prices, especially in this world of e-readers, eBay, and Amazon. What many people don't realize, however, is that individual college book stores have a relatively small effect on the end price of the textbook.

While the admissions department made quirky videos for incoming freshmen, telling them ways around buying textbooks from the book store at the college itself, I cringed. Our college was in the middle of a massive budget crisis. The college was a not for profit institution, and the tuition prices were literally less than a quarter of schools with comparable programs. I was the only employee at the book store. I only had 20 hours a week to have the store open, order books, unpack inventory, organize textbook lists, organize the shelves so students could find the books they needed and maintain all of the other aspects of running a store. Every single dollar spent there helped the store to break even, or perhaps make a tiny bit of profit that went back towards helping the college community.

When a student purchased textbooks from Newegg, or Amazon, or Ebay, just as much of those dollars went back to the publishing companies, but the whole rest of the dollars spent left the college economic ecosystem. Those dollars were votes for Newegg, Amazon, and Ebay, not votes for the continuation and economic health of the college community.

Shopping locally puts your dollar votes back into your own community and shopping from small independent artisans puts food on their tables and allows them to support their own community as well.

If I were to create a graphic, similar to the one about textbooks above, for my own business, it would look drastically different. Even if you compared a dollar spending graphic from a small, independent business to a big box store, if would be very apparent how the different business models contribute to the world. 

In general, when you purchase my items from a local store, half of what you spend is going back to me, and half is going towards supporting the store. I spend that money on paying people to help me pack orders, buying wood that is locally sourced (which also gives jobs to other local-to-me people), and being able to live in my community, spend time with my nieces and nephews, and work on creating new designs. Your local store spends the money they receive on paying people in their community to work in the store, providing a living for their own families, and contributing to their local communities in other ways.

When you purchase items from a big box store, often 40% or less is going back to the creators of the item, while the remaining 60% or more goes to the corporation selling it. The corporation does create some jobs for a local community, but they also have CEOs to pay, shareholders to please, and often look for as many ways as possible to grow their profits while spending less on their employees. The companies that mass manufacture items for those big box stores often rely on the lower costs of manufacturing overseas, which also means there is a good chance that they depend on cheap, unethical manufacturing practices.

Whether you purchase artisan made items, like mine, directly from the person who created them, or from your local craft gallery, you're voting for small, independent communities of people, not corporations.

Oiling work bench