FIYB Ep. 92: Twenty First Century American Dream
Matthew Burnett (CEO and Co-Founder) and Tanya Menendez (CMO and Co-Founder) of Maker’s Row, an online marketplace helping fashion designers connect with American factories, join Pavan Bahl, Rob Sanchez and Marc Raco for an inspiring, informative and hilarious interview.
Maker’s Row – More than the Yellow Pages of Factories
The barriers for starting your own business have been dropping recently; people can open their own shops or fund-raise easily. However, Matthew, explains that 75% entrepreneurs fail before making their first product. Maker’s Row is making it easier for people with ideas to work with factories to produce items and providing education on the manufacturing process.
News: US Manufacturing Competitive In Global Market
Important Industry news covers Bloomberg’s manufacturing report on US manufacturing sector ranking as most competitive in the world for output per worker, largely due to new technologies, and a rebound with more scalable potential. From the article:
U.S. manufacturing sector has become the most competitive in the world. Output per worker is higher than in any other major manufacturing country. Labor costs per unit of output are lower than in Brazil, Canada and Germany, and only slightly higher than in China. What’s more, writes Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics in the new report from which the above facts are taken, “the U.S. is ‘gifted’ with a stable regulatory framework, a flexible labor market, low energy costs and access to a large domestic market.” […]
Yes, there are the almost 900,000 manufacturing jobs added in the U.S. since early 2010.
From Word of Mouth to the World Wide Web
Maker’s Row is putting in the hard work of bringing factories online. Before Maker’s Row, factories got clients solely through word of mouth and only had a few major clients. The climate is now changing and factories are willing to work with smaller brands and work on smaller orders. Later on, the hosts find out that Maker’s Row is working with around 10,000 American manufacturers.
Why Make in America?
Pavan starts a discussion on why companies should and are making their products in the states. Matthew also brings up that American brands are adapting to changes and turning around products faster. Tanya brings up the point that it’s just easier to communicate with factories when you speak the same language. You can also visit a local factory instead having to take plane ride each time. Pavan adds that being on similar time-zones helps. Rob also explains the legal issues of producing overseas where some sketchy factories will have companies sign over IP rights with out them knowing.
Matthew reveals the original name of the company: BusyHunter. They switched to something that combines a reference to making things (before the “maker” trend) and Seville Row community of experts. He also explains the the symbolism of an anvil logo as a way to embrace the past of manufacturing and bring it into the present and future.
The beginning of Maker’s Row really starts with Burnett’s watch design and brand, Steel Cake Watch Company, which was inspired by his father’s career. It’s his experiences with an botched overseas order for a department store and delays from challenges finding manufacturers to produce items that led to the creation of Maker’s Row. Menendez’s expands on her sociology and tech background, the occasionally mysterious world of factories in NYC, and her interest in making more information on manufacturing accessible.
Developing & Managing A Community
What makes Maker’s Row more than a marketplace is their interest in educating designers through all the steps–including having an advisor for more complex projects, encouraging collaboration and giving a chance to new manufacturers. Marc asks who wouldn’t be ready for Maker’s Row and the answer is a person not interested in producing something. Pavan asks about people using the site for unintended purposes and Tanya explains that relationships within the community is strong enough that users will defend & self-police the platform.
Matthew also explains how the site helps factories develop a web presence acting as a bit of PR agency for them helping them with descriptions and photos. The rating system ties into this as it helps (or hurts) their reputation and is something Maker’s Row introduced to the industry. The ratings also include response rates and Tanya explains how it incentivizes factories to pick up the phone more.
Who Knows About Maker’s Row
Pavan explains that he was at a conference and told two companies about the site and asks why the site isn’t more well known. (Maybe a podcast and content sharing will help?) The site has a large amount of users (100,000 business), are the No. 1 result for “tech pak” and have been in The New York Times and NPR. They’re also getting better known as fashion schools and other institutions have been reaching out to them.
Matthew shares the tidbit that students have been creating their final projects through the help of the site.
Artwork Credit: Taylor White