American DollHouses™ are Made in America

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New start up toy maker It’z Purple launches new doll house line for 18” dolls that is Made in America. A look at Chinese versus American manufacturing.

Seeing a need in an untapped market, It’z Purple, LLC, launched American DollHouses this winter with an innovatively designed doll house system that is collapsible, “Made in America”, and for children who own 18” dolls, like American Girl, Goetz and Disney’s Princess and Me line. Having heard the challenge made by ABC World News with Diane Sawyer for the promotion of American made products in America, It’z Purple, LLC, after finding a Chinese manufacturer, elected at the last minute to manufacture in the United Sates despite increased costs.

Currently, It’z Purple dollhouse line is being made in Chicago, Illinois. American DollHouses currently has three sizes being produced in Chicago. Founder Kathy O'Brien stated “I decided to manufacture in the US despite increased production costs because I felt it was important to give American workers a chance. I think at the end of the day every American wants to believe America is about opportunity and a chance to succeed. I guess for me it came down to could I still make money, maybe less, but still survive and give another American a job.”

Deciding to manufacture in the US is a tough choice for most small businesses. A number of obstacles block small businesses from manufacturing in the US. Often small businesses cannot find factories or companies willing to work with small orders. “When I first started exploring manufactures in the US one of the biggest obstacles was the size of the order. I had company after company in the US tell me if I wasn’t prepared to order 100,000 they could not do anything for me. No small business can afford to order 100,000 in inventory,” according to Kathy O’Brien. “However China will happily manufacture a quantity as little as 500.”

Another obstacle for manufacturing in the US for small business is the increased cost. “I found my costs were substantially higher in the US then China.” According to O’Brien, “I found the cost from 3 to 5 times more to manufacturer in the US. It took months of cold calls to get that number down to 2 times China, and that seems the best the US factories can do. This cost typically can’t be passed on to consumers, but instead it comes out of your profit margin, which will kill you sooner or later. Small businesses typically operate on smaller margins to begin with so when you add in higher production costs with the US factories it can be cost prohibitive to manufacture in the US regardless of your desire.”

The final obstacle to Made in America is the American consumer. At the end of the day the American consumer place more importance on price then manufacturing and jobs. O’Brien attended the Chicago Toy Conference in November and expert after expert said the exact same thing at the conference to the audience: you gain no value by manufacturing in the US, consumers buy based on price and not jobs. “As a result, it’s hard to expect a business whose lively hood relies on making money to care about where something is made when the American consumers in general does place a value on it,” stated to O’Brien.

Kathy O’Brien was recently asked by a fellow scout leader about taking away American jobs. O’Brien’s response was, “When people say what about US jobs and workers? The reality is that regardless of whether you manufacturer in China or the US you are creating US jobs. You create legal, design firms, web, marketing, banking, delivery, automotive, accounting, and the list goes on. The trickle down value is substantial and often under valued by Americans in my opinion. Regardless of where you manufacture, you are creating jobs.”

In the end it was a tough choice for It’z Purple to manufacture in the US. “After going to China I felt very comfortable manufacturing in China. China was not what I expected or thought it would be. You hear on the news, all the horror stores about pollution and abuse of employees in China that you really feel like this evil person for manufacturing there or even thinking about doing so. After going however, I felt completely comfortable. The factories were clean, the people happy and friendly, even the expressways had solar and wind turbines on the lights, and we don’t even have that here in the US. I will never forget the moment I stopped and gawked at a street sweeping machine going down the road. China, very simply, wasn’t the image painted in my head by main stream media; it was much more American then I ever imagined.”

Then why did you manufacture in the US? “It came down to a couple of things. First, I wanted to. It’s that simple. I believed it was the right thing to do. Originally I couldn’t find anyone willing to work with me or anyone able to produce my product at a price less than what I wanted to sell it for — that was a biggie. After going to China, however, I ran into scheduling issues and time lines, which is the biggest frustration with manufacturing in China for most US companies. I think America is at a cross roads right now, the question for every small business is if and how they can succeed when most large scale businesses are taking advantage of the cost saving of manufacturing in China? The reality is even the little guy may end up manufacturing oversea for no other reason then to survive. And once you’re there, why come back? America is in a tough spot. Many businesses want to manufacture in the US but when the costs are higher and the American consumer doesn’t value the product any more for it being Made in America the basic math means Made in China is here to stay.”

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Kathy Obrien
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