There’s a new industrial revolution happening in America. This time, we’re not seeing the rise of factories and railroads, enormous steel mills churning out thick black smoke and high-rise buildings dominating the old skyline. There’s no massive movement of people from the farmlands to the industrial centers.
No, this revolution is happening inside our communities. Backyards. Craft rooms. Small commercial spaces. Barns.
It’s being run by our neighbors, coworkers, relatives, and friends.
As our politics focus more and more on outsourcing and export protections and Americans cast an ever more weary eye on products from overseas, this quiet but powerful revolution has been happening right under our noses- hiding in plain sight.
Think I’m exaggerating? Just look at Etsy. As the retail market plummets and Amazon reigns supreme, Etsy has not only fought off the competition, but indeed has grown in both market and confidence. Why?
It’s all about the makers. The modern-day industrialists making decor, jewelry, and other wonderful products. Etsy’s success is built on the idea that these small entrepreneurs are offering a unique and exciting change- artisanal, hand crafted products, each one unique, each with its own flaws, patina, personality, and charm.
In a recent interview with Yahoo! Finance, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said “We see ourselves as the voice of the new Main Street, the digital main street, as small sellers and entrepreneurs are trying to build businesses for themselves.”
These small sellers are employing neighbors, pouring money back into communities, providing much needed tax revenue, and are the foundation of what we think is going to be the rebirth of American manufacturing.
Of course, Etsy and companies like them have an iron fist wrapped around the “digital mainstreet” right now. They own the storefronts, the roads, and the phone book.
And mainstreet is getting crowded. Sellers are competing with each other for valuable customer attention, and small business budgets aren’t built around the massive advertising costs necessary to rise to the above the noise.
Customers, in turn, are having an increasingly difficult time finding exactly what they want in this mainstreet marketplace. Hundreds upon hundreds of products and stores are turned at the simplest search, and many are companies pawning cheap overseas goods off as American artisanal work.
Now, don’t get us wrong- there are just things you can’t find made here in the states or via fair trade production overseas. We recognize that. But the effort should be made if a business wants to be seen as the American Main Street.
That’s where we think we’re different- curation. Find the products made by the makers, and help them advertise and sell. Pull products together into themes so customers can see them side by side, and artisans can connect with one another. Advertise the products directly to the consumers who might want them. Help everyone cut through the noise.
Let the makers make, don't force them to manage complicated backend websites and marketing schemes. The customer orders what they love. The maker crafts and ships a beautiful product. And Hart and Hess helps make it happen. Keep it simple, and this revolution can spread like wildfire.