Co-founder and CEO Ken Tomita explores our adventures in running a small business and the journey to understand the meaning of it all.
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Recently, there’s been some critical discussion in the media over the use of the “Made In The USA” angle for marketing. While it’s not our place to comment on the actions of other companies, we wanted to take a moment to discuss where we stand.
First, a little bit of history. When Joe and I started Grovemade in 2009, our focus wasn’t on making everything in the USA; we just wanted to design and sell a bamboo iPhone case. When we couldn’t find a manufacturer willing to tackle the project, we took matters into our own hands. I took out a loan and bought a $75,000 CNC machine so we could make it ourselves. Our company quickly grew to over 20 employees, making iPhone cases as fast as we could in order to keep up with demand.
As our capacity maxed out, we looked again to outsourcing in order to lighten our load, and quickly found none of it would be practical. The more technically challenging processes where we had truly innovated--namely precision wood machining--were so finicky that no one else could do it well, and the quality control simply wouldn’t be worth it. Fast forward to today and we have a 5000 sq ft workshop where we proudly make our products with precision machinery and old fashioned hand work. Some components are outsourced, such as glue lamination and metal machining, but even these we do locally in order to keep a close eye on quality. Ultimately, about 99% of our production is done in the USA; the sole exception being the internals of our watch.
So, with one exception, we can claim that we’re “Made In The USA,” but that’s not what we want to be famous for because that’s not why we do it. Our mission is not American job creation. Our mission is to simply love the work that we do. Our journey is to find what matters. We believe that idea isn’t limited geographically to the United States, and our customers think beyond the “Made In The USA” angle too. Right now, we just happen to make (almost) everything here to support our mission.
As CEO, I take on the challenge of navigating design, manufacturing cost, value to our customers, and the health of our team and business. If that balance someday leads us to make more components overseas, I’ll consider it, but right now we make things here. As I wrap up this post, I’m humbled that there are so many people around the world that find value in our work as it stands. Thanks for your support.