Gettin’ (Back to) Real
For most of human history, trade was simple. One person had a lot of something, another had a lot of something else, they each gave the other some of what they had and they were both better off. Currency was invented to make the process more efficient. Things went like that for thousands of years.
Even into the last century, things were pretty straightforward. Many of the merchants we got things from were in our community. We knew the butcher and the baker. Things were made simply. Food was fresh. Materials were natural. People—literally—stood by their products, so they made things with as much character and quality as they could. Even as big companies making big machines in big factories emerged, plant workers were from the city in which the company’s headquarters was located.
Businesses were naturally invested in their people and their communities.
In the second half of the 20th Century, things changed. Many companies saw success and wanted to get really big. Systems were created that allowed large-scale mass production to become the norm. Corporations became able to make things anywhere in the world. All of this had some benefits—products could be churned out more uniformly, less expensively, more quickly.
But there was a trade-off. As companies pursued more profit, they sought the cheapest places and processes for making stuff. Some realized that lower quality products that wore out more quickly meant people would buy more. Wherever we lived, the same big box stores were selling us all the same stuff, and we all kinda started to look the same.
Now when many companies are considering a new product line, the primary drivers for consideration are just numbers—demand, cost, margin. How many consumers want this product, how can we drive down our costs as low as possible, what’s the maximum profit we can get?
This line of thinking has led to a lot of cheap goods that are mass-produced, use unreal synthetic and toxic materials, and lack the quality needed to withstand the test of time. It’s also led to overseas factories that often don’t treat workers well and pollute the environment.
But something is happening. Consumers are beginning to rebel.
We’re realizing that food produced closer to home and grown without pesticides actually tastes better and is better for us. We don’t want to use personal care products on our bodies filled with an alphabet soup of chemical ingredients. We’ve decided that quality matters, choosing hand-made and small batch garments and durable goods instead of things that tear or break shortly after they’re purchased.
We’re returning to our roots, looking for unique pieces and products made by real people, choosing craftsmanship over mass-production, all-natural over genetically-modified, and mission-aligned over profit-driven.
People are starting more companies like this every day. A small outdoor clothing business that makes all its garments in Colorado, with fabric that’s all milled in the USA, and pays all workers a living wage. A company on a mission to improve the health of people and the planet by making home goods out of 100% recycled plastics without BPAs and other toxins. A young woman who traveled to Nepal, met women rescued from sex trafficking, wanted to support them and thought the best way she could do that was to start a t-shirt company out of her bedroom so she could empower those women with a good-paying job. All sorts of individual makers creating unique items that last.
These are the underdogs, going up against the big guys, determined to prove you can build a successful business that makes the world better at the same time. We want them to succeed. The world needs them to succeed!
That’s why we do what we do. To help people looking for the unique, the simple, the natural, the good. To support companies with purpose.
The more we can help these companies succeed, the more of them there will be. Eventually, the big guys will take notice, and they’ll begin to change themselves. The economy, and the world, will see a revolution in this century as dramatic as the one in the last.
In the meantime, we can all get better stuff, give some business to some really cool people, and make the world a little better just by getting something we needed to buy anyway.