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 something of value and both were better off. Currency was later invented to make the process more efficient. This went on for thousands of years.
Even heading into the last century things were straightforward. Merchants were in our community. We knew the butcher and baker. Things were made simply. Food was fresh. Materials were natural. People literally stood by their products, so things were made with character and quality. And businesses 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 much bigger. Mass production became the norm. Corporations became capable of making things anywhere in the world. There were some benefits to this—products could be churned out more uniformly, less expensively, and much quicker. But there were also trade-offs.
As companies chased more profit, they sought the cheapest places and processes for making stuff. They realized that by manufacturing products that wore out faster it would actually cause people to buy more.
This led to cheap, mass-produced goods created using synthetic and toxic materials, which lacked the quality needed to withstand the test of time. It gave way to overseas factories that mistreated workers, locked people in poverty, and polluted the environment. And wherever we lived, the same big box stores were selling us the same stuff. We all even kinda started to look the same.
But something is happening. Consumers are starting to rebel.
We’re realizing that fresher food produced closer to home and grown without pesticides actually tastes better and is better for us. We don’t want products for our bodies that are filled with an alphabet soup of chemical ingredients. We’ve decided that quality matters, choosing hand-made, small batch, more durable goods instead of things that tear or break shortly after we buy them. 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, mission-aligned over profit-driven.
And 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 with benefits. 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 started an apparel company to empower these women with a good-paying job.
These are the heroes.
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. And 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. And to support those who took a risk starting a company that’s committed to doing the right thing.
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 too. 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 our business to some really cool people, and make the world a little better, just by getting something we needed to buy anyway.