Republished from The News-Times
Made in America is not only a preference, but a necessity for a new local nonprofit organization.
All New American creates awareness and provides funding to small businesses through website exposure and grants. It specifically targets small businesses in the U.S. that handcraft artisan goods or foods. The products, of course, must be made in the U.S.
“In the last 50 years, there’s been such an assumption that everything comes from overseas,” Elizabeth Barek, co-founder of Danbury-based All New American, said. “But we are a country of builders and makers and inventors. A lot is made here and people are starting to recognize that. There’s an awareness that we do make great things. Quality is quality. Quality lasts. Junk doesn’t.”
All New American, through its website www.allnewamerican.org, highlights U.S.-made products by displaying photos and in-depth descriptions of the businesses. It has a featured business of the week, which gets prime real estate on the site’s home page.
The 501(c)3 nonprofit also provides funding to small businesses, often to cover the vendor costs to trade shows and pop-up shows. It also provides grants for equipment purchases.
The website features about 1,600 businesses, including 22 from Connecticut. The businesses range from little-known startups to nationally known brands such as Yeti. Products are not sold through the website, but links are provided to the individual sites.
“The website evolved into a nonprofit and I like where we are because we are in a position to help startups,” Barek said. “The website brings together all the amazing American craftsmen and makers, whether they are just starting or have been around for 100 years.”
Making a jump
Although their clients come from all over the country, the organization recently helped a local company, Luke’s Toy Factory, by covering the vendor fees for the American Field in Boston. American Field is one of the country’s largest pop-up markets for U.S.-made products.
Jim Barber, co-owner of Luke’s Toy Factory in Danbury, said the fair provided a boost for the small manufacturer of toys by increasing sales and exposure to customers and buyers.
“I think what they are doing is great,” Barber said. “They have been supporters of ours since the first day we started our Kickstarter campaign. That show was terrific for us to get into other markets. They’ve been very helpful.”
Barber is particularly fond of All New American because they are a local organization that asks little in return for their services.
“There are other places like that but they are always trying to make money off of you,” he said. “All New American really cares about made in America and putting Americans to work.”
Jim Barber and his son Luke make toys for 3- to 5-year-olds out of a small manufacturing facility near downtown Danbury. It recently started exporting toys to Europe.
The entry fee for American Field is between $800 and $1,200.
“We help small business around the country, but it’s really cool when we can help out the local businesses,” Kim Reddington, co-founder of All New American, said.
Other Connecticut companies on the site include: 3Dux/Design, from Bridgeport; Amy Kahn Russell, of Ridgefield; Churncraft, of New Canaan; Dunes and Duchess, of Danbury; Griffin Lee Artisans, of Stamford; Noteworthy Chocolates, of Bethel; Paul Shampine, of Newtown; and TidePieces, of Westport.
Last fall, All New American held its first fundraiser, an artisan fest at The Makery Coworking space in New Milford.
“It’s important to see and meet the people behind the brands,” Reddington said. “There’s a power to telling the story behind the brands.”
A legacy organization
Barek started All New American to honor the memory of her brother, Frank Weeden. He founded in 1994 the high-end designer candle company Ana Candles, which rose to prominence from its beginnings in Trenton, N.J. After designing the candles, he enlisted the help of Barek to bring the products to market.
The company sold $100,000 worth of candles during the four-day New York International Gift Show in 1996, Barek said. The candle business boomed until the recession hit in 2008, she said.
Weeden died at age 53 in 2013 from pancreatic cancer and the family sold the business. Weeden was also a former mayoral candidate and civic leader in Trenton.
“(All New American) started as a legacy website to do something to celebrate what he was,” Barek said. “My brother was an artist, believed in made in America, and was a community leader. All New American encompasses all of that. Many of the companies are community oriented.”
Barek has a professional background in product development and wholesale. Reddington is the social media and website design guru.
“I’ve always helped small businesses grow,” Reddington said. “That’s how our passions are aligned.”
Until this year, All New American has been a self-funded organization. The owners are now looking to raise funds through events and grant writing.
Barek sees the potential for the organization to focus on two or three small businesses and help in a more meaningful way. The focus of the nonprofit, however, will always be on American-made artisan products, she said.
“The emphasis is on American small business because that’s the heart of our economy and their hearts are local,” she said.
The writer may be reached at [email protected]; 203-731-3338