Happy Friday! In celebration of Independence Day, we’ve curated a collection of links related to ideas, practices, and products born in the USA.
“America is the greatest engine of innovation that has ever existed, and it can't be duplicated anytime soon, because it is the product of a multitude of factors: extreme freedom of thought, an emphasis on independent thinking, a steady immigration of new minds, a risk-taking culture with no stigma attached to trying and failing [...]” (--via Thomas Friedman)
Riveter is an American company that not only produces stylish and sturdy handbags from upcycled military materials, it’s also producing a new model of work for a niche demographic: mobile and flexible employment for military spouses. As the women in the video illustrate, being a military spouse often means being relocated and having to find a new job or, even, a new career every two to three years. R. Riveter, the brainchild of Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse, enables military spouses to maintain continuous employment despite frequent moves. How does it work? “Riveters” fabricate handbags in their homes—cutting and dying materials from government surplus stores or directly from military members—and then ship the pieces to the R. Riveter home base in Georgia where they are assembled on vintage industrial sewing machines.
Etsy, a virtual marketplace for independent makers of all kinds, came online in 2005. Eight years later, under the direction of Etsy’s new CEO Chad Dickerson, the company changed its terms so that people could sell manufactured goods as well. Though this was controversial, Etsy has continued to grow, going public this year and raising $97.3 million in venture funding thus far. How is Etsy, then, all American? Well, despite serving as an online, international marketplace, the idea and the company were conceived of in a Brooklyn apartment. Etsy’s headquarters are still in Brooklyn, and they start each all-hands meeting with a song. We bet their merchants and makers, some of whom claim to net almost 1 million a year, are singing too!
Have you heard of Lolly Wolly Doodle? It may sound like a line for a nursery rhyme, but it’s actually the name of an American company that does more sales on Facebook than any other brand in the world. Started by Brandi Tysinger-Temple when she decided to use extra fabric to sew a few sample children’s dresses and list them on eBay, Lolly now employs approximately 250 people in the small, sleepy town of Lexington, North Carolina. What’s Lolly’s secret? Perhaps unknowingly, Tysinger-Temple tapped into the power of social commerce, moving her dresses from eBay to Facebook and thereby leveraging existing networks while lowering barriers to buying. Though Lolly does, in fact, extend its supply chain to China, Tysinger-Temple’s story of remnants to success is a distinctively American one.
Speaking of supply chains, Casper Sleep Inc., a company that has challenged notions of what can and should be bought online, posts its supply chain philosophy to its website and invites people to try a Casper mattress for 100 nights—“no springs attached.” Recently, Casper has drawn attention by confirming its $55 million new round of financing at a $550 million valuation. Why is Capser an American success story? Like the other companies noted above, Casper is built on an idea—a product of independent thinking—and a willingness to question how things have been done in the past.
Finally, American artist Christian Faur creates pixel portraits using digital mapping and hand cast encaustic crayons, while Heather Dewey-Hagborg extracts DNA from found objects and uses it to construct 3D portraits of strangers. Faur’s works combine the detail of photography with the materiality of sculpture. Dewey-Hagborg’s works combine the materiality of human detritus with recent advances in both genetics and 3D printing. Both of these innovate artists combine curiosity, technology, skill, and design to challenge our ways of seeing the world around us, each other, and ourselves.
P.S. Take a look at Wikipedia’s timeline of United States inventions. Did you know dental floss, the artificial heart, candy corn, fly swatters, hearing aids, and hydraulic brakes were all born in the USA?