We sat down with the founder of AnytownUSA.com, Geralyn Breig, to learn more about her company’s mission. Geralyn is the former president of Clarks Shoes and is on the Board of Directors for 1-800-Flowers, Welch’s and Hanes.
Geralyn Breig’s earlier experience in the retail industry was spent working with brands that outsource their production to other countries. After realizing how difficult it is for consumers to find American-made products, she decided to create AnytownUSA, an online marketplace that connects buyers and sellers of American-made products.
In this interview, Geralyn discusses her vision for AnytownUSA and American manufacturing as a whole.
Made in America: AnytownUSA is a platform for buyers and sellers looking for USA-made products. What was your experience before AnytownUSA and how did the idea come about?
Geralyn: I went to business school for consumer-focused marketing. As a result, my whole career has been about trying to figure out what people want and then making it for them. It’s been a fun journey and I’ve had the privilege of working on a lot of amazing brands. Along the way, I’ve worked in different businesses that went down the path that our country’s been on. By that, I mean more and more outsourcing and offshoring. The last corporate stop I had was at Clarks and that’s where it became clear to me how much product is produced offshore at this point. In the 1960s, the majority of products we purchased were made in America. Now, only about 3% of apparel products we buy, for example, are made in the U.S. I became curious and started doing some research. It led me to one study that found that 80% of Americans would still like to buy American-made products, but they just can’t find them. What had been a very common thing was now hard to find. So, I set out to make it easier for people to shop for made-in-America products.
Made in America: Are you working on this full-time?
Geralyn: It’s full-time, I also serve on three corporate boards.
Made in America: How long have you had the idea for AnytownUSA?
Geralyn: I started exploring the idea towards the end of 2016. I found the name for the business and reserved it. We started putting the business together in 2017, then launched in 2018.
Made in America: How has the reception been so far?
Geralyn: We were out there at the start of 2017, recruiting sellers with just the idea. No website, no anything. Just the idea of a marketplace that was only for American-made products. From the beginning, sellers were very interested. A lot of marketplaces get crowded with overseas products because there’s so much made overseas. Sellers were glad to hear that somebody was going to provide a marketplace where they could breakthrough. We had 100 sellers sign up before we even launched. And now that we’ve launched, we’re seeing the seller momentum really starting to happen. That was the first part of the equation. The second part was for people shopping on the site. We had a great Christmas holiday season, and we were strong through November and December. Our list is building and we’re confident.
Made in America: Your sellers, do they upload products right onto your store? How are they doing that?
Geralyn: You can’t automatically upload on our site. You have to go through a process where we validate that your products are made in the U.S. according to FTC guideline. Once that’s done, you’ll get a link that allows you to upload. It’s easy enough that anybody would be able to upload their shop on their own, but some folks do need a little hel,p and we provide customer service for them.
Made in America: Do most of these sellers have their own e-commerce as well, or are these sellers who didn’t have a platform beforehand?
Geralyn: It’s a mixture of both. Some people don’t have their own site, some people have a bricks and mortar store, some have extensive wholesale distribution. What we tell people is that this is a great additional point-of-distribution that highlights their American-made products. A lot of smaller sellers or manufacturers don’t have the time or the capital to drive traffic to their own site. We create a community of sellers, and we provide synergy to drive traffic to the site.
Made in America: How are you raising awareness for the public to know about it?
Geralyn: There are two sides. For seller recruitment, we’re traveling all across the country. Last year, we went to about 45 shows throughout the U.S. This year, our plan is 175 shows. As for consumers, we received funds from some wonderful seed investors to spend on paid digital targeted ads. We’re also producing a weekly podcast called “The American Made Marketplace”, and we have organic social media, emails, and PR.
Made in America: Do you have any stories about working with brands that outsourced but were thinking about transitioning to American-made?
Geralyn: At AnytownUSA, we have well-known partner companies that still make some of their products in America. For example in footwear, New Balance makes approximately 10% percent of their products in the U.S., Frye makes a portion of their line in the U.S., and Johnston & Murphy is also a partner company. When I was at Clarks, all of the Clarks products were made overseas. It became a challenge when we ran into problems with west coast dock issues and plant disruptions in Asia.. We could have used some onshore capability! It’s going to be very difficult to bring Asian manufacturing back to the U.S., but any effort that can be made is good. It’s just not going to happen overnight though.
Made in America: What does the future of AnytownUSA look like for you?
Geralyn: Our vision is for our customers to be able to dress themselves from head to toe, and their homes from front door to back door, in products made in America. It’s that simple. At the same time, we want to enable craftspeople and small and medium American manufacturers to have a platform to be seen and found by customers. It’s a win-win for everybody.