When most of us think of online shopping, Amazon, Ebay and other big name shopping sites immediately come to mind. With a wide audience and cheap prices, these websites are popular and sell just about everything — except for local, handmade and artisan products. For those items, you probably tend to head to local boutiques or farmers’ markets.
But now, thanks to the new site MadeClose, you can buy these types of items from the comfort of your own home.
Launched six months ago, this Brooklyn-based e-commerce site specializes in eco-conscious products. What makes the company stand out though is how it organizes its site. Focusing on location, all of its products are arranged according to where they’re manufactured. Customers can search for their desired product on a browseable map on the site.
Overall, the company’s goal is to connect small-scale American manufacturers with consumers all over the country, allowing the companies to grow and expand.
Vendors don’t have to pay to join MadeClose, but the site does receive a commission on all sales.
At the heart of the company’s values is transparency. All vendors are required to display what percentage of a product’s materials are made in the U.S., how many employees they have and the product’s key ingredients and materials. In addition, the merchants have the option to include information on where the materials they use are sourced and their values.
Through this policy, customers will know exactly what they’re buying and where it comes from — making them a more active participant in the manufacturing process.
Right now, MadeClose has 600 merchants on its site. And while most are concentrated in Brooklyn, there are sellers from Los Angeles to North Carolina and include a reclaimed wood skateboard manufacturer, a tomato and cheddar biscotti baker, a Massachusetts-based booze-infused jam maker and a leather goods manufacturer.
And even though it’s not that environmentally friendly to ship a product cross-country, that isn’t a deterrent for the site. Instead, it focuses on how these local businesses are usually more community-based since they use local materials and reinvest in the community.
One such company is Ampersand in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ninety-five percent of the materials used by this furniture and home goods product design company comes from the Cincinnati area. And since joining MadeClose about a month ago, the company has expanded beyond its borders with all of its sales being to places outside of its home state.
But with any new site, there’s always critics, which claim that local products are expensive, elitist and only for those with “precious tastes.”
However, according to co-founder and CEO Peter Smith, those stereotypes are exactly what MadeClose is trying to dispel.
“Part of the reason that we started the site was to kind of pull back the veil on a lot of noise out there,” Smith told Next City. “What about the fact that if you buy from a local shop, they circulate a lot more money in their own community than a big business chain? I can understand how someone might think that the price points of artisanal goods are exclusionary, but a lot of time, they are better made and longer-lasting.”