With all the controversy over unsafe conditions at overseas factories, a Latino-owned company in New York wants to send a message: bring all the manufacturing jobs back home.
Makers Row, a kind of matchmaking site that brings together apparel designers with their best corresponding factories, is trying to make that happen.
Working with over 1,400 U.S. manufacturers and a growing number of both small designers and larger brands, Makers Row says factory owners are reporting a renaissance in their businesses with larger production runs. They’ve started hiring again.
Makers Row was launched less than a year ago by Tanya Menendez and Mathew Burnett. The two met at the Brooklyn Beta Summer Camp—a “camp” for young entrepreneurs trying to launch a start-up.
Burnett received an industrial design degree from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. After graduating, he began designing a watch line called Steel Cake, and found himself caught in the whirlwind of manufacturing nightmares working with oversees companies.
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Orders would be filled with mistakes and communication was challenging, if not impossible. All of it led him to launch The Brooklyn Bakery, a leather accessories company focused solely on American-made goods.
Burnett convinced Menendez, then working in finance at Goldman Sacks, to find an alternate way for U.S.-based designer to have their products manufactured locally.
Menendez said she spent a half-day in a New York factory and was sold.
She was able to meet the people who would be producing the products, then chatted with them and saw what went into the production—something U.S. designers can’t do when working with oversees factories.
Menendez said she has a very personal connection with her work at Makers Row.
“Many of my family members previously worked at factories – my father worked at a plastics fabricator when he was younger, and my aunt worked at a food processing plant when she immigrated over,” said Menendez, whose father is from El Salvador and her mother is from Nicaragua.
In light of the horrifying industrial accident in a Bangladesh factory that killed over 1,000 people, Menendez believes it’s time for the U.S. to begin investing in home-made manufacturing.
“Part of what we do isn’t simply connect the designer with a factory. We’re also helping designers develop their business, matching them with a public relations specialist, someone to help with marketing, and someone to help them with the business side—deciding on prices and size of production,” Menendez said. “We’re trying to make all of this conversation more transparent.”
Menendez points out that Makers Row isn’t against oversees production, simply pro U.S. She believes the real issue is sustainability.
Manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have dried up the past few decades as businesses began shipping their work oversees, allowing them to cut labor costs.
“We talk about the facts. Paying people an un-livable wage will lead to lower quality products. We’re encouraging consumers to shop locally and buy locally made,” she said. “Workers in the U.S. are given a fair wage and decent working conditions.”
Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.