In the past decade, “Made in the U.S.A.” has made a comeback one small batch at a time. Small batch production allows makers of all kinds to thrive in the marketplace. A perfect match for the “maker movement” that’s quickly growing in the small business community, the ability to produce, package, and distribute products on a smaller scale has many benefits.
A potent combination of technological trends have launched small batch making into its own bonafide industry. Online shopping makes an expensive brick-and-mortar storefront unnecessary and social media makes free marketing easy, while crowdfunding applications help makers get the cash they need to get started. Maker Faires have also sprung up all over the country, helping makers learn the tricks of the trade and share ideas. Online start-ups like Maker’s Row help factories attract small batch makers, and online marketplaces like The Grommet provide consumers with a curated platform to buy small batch goods. In fact, CEO and co-founder of The Grommet, Jules Pieri, was named one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs of 2013.
According to a Smithsonian interview with Matthew Burnett, co-founder of Maker’s Row, “While the notion of supporting American-made goods is certainly not a new one, there’s a new faction getting behind it: independent makers who want to produce small runs of their designs in a domestic facility.” Small batch production benefits not only makers but factories as well, allowing them to diversify their workloads instead of putting all their eggs in one large product basket.
For American makers and manufacturers, small batch production has a long list of pros. Small batches provide a flexible and profitable way to build a foundation–a way to get started and test the waters without committing to a large inventory. If there are improvements to be made, they can be addressed in the next batch. By the time the design is perfected and the maker is ready to grow, the sales of the initial batches show that the product has an established market and is meeting a need.
More artistic-minded makers are attracted to the variety that small batches make possible. Small batches also give products a “limited-edition” quality that spurs sales. And factories aside, other makers like Leocadia K. and Rayne Home Decor simply like making the product themselves at a pace they can manage.
The sustainability of small batch production is finding a wider audience. Smaller batches reduce the risk of waste. Also, if you want to make a product with eco-friendly components and production practices while paying U.S. citizens a fair wage, you often can’t afford to do it on a large scale. But staying small, sustainable and domestic is proving to be a valuable way of doing business. To meet the demand that this philosophy attracts, Good Clothing Company had to open a second location in 2016.
With the infrastructure available today, you don’t have to start in a garage to start an innovative business anymore.
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart