Sunday, December 9, 2012

Made in the USA

"Made in USA" seems to be the mantra of the day. More and more people feel that the only way to improve our country's economy is by having more jobs here. However, there has to be an incentive for people to make goods here. And that stimulus is people preferring to buy products from America. When you buy American-made products, you encourage producers to hire more people, and that improves the economy. Sounds simple doesn't it?

Let’s take a step back for a moment and ask what "Made in USA" really means? To understand this better let me tell you a little bit about my experience. I started Zahoomi with the intention of helping local sellers. My goal was to connect buyers with sellers located close by, and thus help improve the local economy by keeping the money within the community. Zahoomi was (and is) set up to show stores closest to you first. It was my way of making sure the local sellers got exposure to buyers rather than being lost in the sea of sellers from all over the USA or the world.

After spending time to find my bearings, I decided to go back to my original vision and restrict Zahoomi to US sellers only. That decision made, I was all ready to join the "Made in the USA" bandwagon, when I decided to do some research to educate myself as to what it really meant. 

U.S. federal law defines when a product can be advertised as "Made in USA":
For a product to be called Made in USA, or claimed to be of domestic origin without qualifications or limits on the claim, the product must be "all or virtually all" made in the U.S. The term "United States," as referred to in the Enforcement Policy Statement, includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and possessions.

That web page goes on to give many examples of what can and cannot be labeled as made in the USA. If clothing is made in the USA with material from the USA, then it is made in the USA. If a gold ring is made in the USA from imported gold, it is still not made in the USA. If the majority parts are imported then you can say "Made in USA with imported parts". And falsely advertising that a product is "Made in USA" can be grounds for massive fines!

However, in dealing with lots of sellers on Zahoomi, I knew that many of them worked hard and produced products that may not be called "Made in USA" using the FTC’s definition. An artisan from California who spent hours making the bracelet might have beads made overseas. Does this lessen the effort put into making this product? Although the bracelet was not strictly made in the USA, did this kind of work not generate jobs for people in the US?  

I was in a dilemma. On the one hand I did not want to get into trouble for falsely advertising products as made in the USA when they technically did not qualify for this label. On the other hand, I wanted to support all those who worked hard to produce beautiful products in the USA. After a lot of thought and countless days trying to figure out how to say "(Almost) Made in USA", I decided to simply ask people to shop American and support the American dream. 

All products on Zahoomi are made by hard working people right here in the USA. The products are not imported from other countries. However, if people do not buy these products, there is no incentive to continue to make them. The decision of these sellers to continue working and making these products depend on your decision to buy them. They may not all qualify for the Made in USA label but I am sure you will agree that buying these products is the best impetus for continued job sustenance/creation. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5 Online Jewelry Shopping Tips

As someone that not only sells jewelry online, I love to support the handmade market with my own purchases. Well, it's not like I am out to save the economy one purchase at a time but I definitely love finding beautiful, unique and quality jewelry for comparable if not BETTER prices than I would find at my local department store. I like knowing that someone's heart and talent went into creating the item rather than something that was mass-produced most likely in another country and very possibly in an exploitative environment.

So how does one go about shopping for accessories online? I think there are a few rules of thumb that will help insure you are getting something you will be glad you invested in. Below are a few of my personal favorites:

1. I try to always buy US Made when it comes to accessories. I'd say 95% of my accessories purchases have been from home grown artists from the US. There are so many talented and creative people here in our own backyard, I rarely can justify buying anywhere else. I definitely feel better knowing I am helping to support our own domestic artists and economy by doing so. (Did you know Zahoomi has made a new commitment to offer only US made items in their online marketplace?)

2. I make sure that contact information is readily available. I've actually made impulse buys and didn't check to see if the seller's contact information is made easily available to it's customers. It's a red flag if any company or seller doesn't make communication with them a priority. Almost every time I've bought without checking this first, I've regretted it. k

3. Ask questions. Sellers are, for the most part, ready and willing to answer any questions. If I'm not sure about something from the pictures I ask. The answers are always (so far) prompt, informative and courteous. Communicating with the seller may help to fill in details you don't see covered in the picture or description. 

4. Lastly, Use the imagination. I sometimes forget what a valuable tool this is when shopping online. Pictures are very helpful but they are still flat compared to real life. I've found when I remember to use my imagination it adds a whole new facet to shopping for accessories and clothes online. I've made great purchases of items that I was about to pass buy when I remembered to take a minute to really envision it with one of my outfits. One of my favorite scenarios is jeans and a V-neck T-shirt. I imagine the bracelet or necklace or earrings being worn with this simple yet timeless combo. It's a great canvas to determine the "WOW" factor of a piece that otherwise I would've passed right by. 

5. Shop by color. I love this feature. Zahoomi added it awhile back and a few other sites use it as well. Shopping for jewelry online can be really overwhelming! There are a million amazing artists out there with a gajillion amazing pieces to offer! Shopping by color brings it into focus a bit, narrowing all of the info into bite size portions. I like that.

So those are the ways in which I find my way through the infinite number of choices that are before us in this new age of online marketing. Because of this new frontier we can support our economy, support local artists, find great deals on unique items that not everyone will have because we all shop at the same store and we can avoid the crowds and stress of the mall, the store and the parking lot. Sounds like a win/win situation to me!

Do you have any tricks to shopping online? What do you avoid? What attracts you? Please share your experiences and join me in the Jewelry Journey!


Reprinted with permission from: