Saline man's new website promotes buying American-made goods, even if they cost a little bit more
Saline resident Mark Schlicher is basing his new business on the belief that many Americans, like Toby Keith’s father, will “spend a little more in the store for a tag in the back that says U.S.A.”
Schlicher launched his website, IBuyAmericanStore.com, Nov. 20 with the goal of increasing people’s access to American-made goods.
Courtesy Mark Schlicher
“There have been fewer available in local stores so we started to look online. I bet people like me would buy American if they knew where to buy, so the goal was to create a virtual store where people could go to find what they’re looking for.”
The site is as much a philosophical endeavor for Schlicher as an economic one.
“It’s about promoting our own way of life,” he said.
“We’re seeing our manufacturing base leave oversees and because of that our middle class continues to shrink, and I think that’s directly related to our buying habits. We decided we were willing to trade our opportunities for middle class manufacturing jobs in exchange for cheaper products.”
DesignHub, an online and print design firm in Saline, created the website for Schlicher who said he set aside $15,000 to personally invest in the site.
He plans for the website to generate revenue by eventually charging a small fee for vendors to earn a spot in the virtual store.
“I will never charge the consumers for coming onto the site,” Schlicher said.
“I’m linking the consumers directly with the manufacturer and they will pay through their website. Initially there won’t be any payment for vendors to be listed on the site, and after 90 days I hope to be able to show them that there’s value in being on and ask them for a nominal fee.”
The virtual store, which is designed to look like a physical store with a virtual facade entrance, has a number of departments for shoppers to choose from including outdoor gear, footwear, and appliances.
There initially were 51 vendors listed on the site, with more being added weekly as they are referred to Schlicher.
Many of the new vendors come from emails from customers pointing him towards more American-made products.
Using Google analytics to track his progress, Schlicher said his store has seen consistent growth since its launch, and a 300 percent spike after he sent out a press release earlier in December.
“Michigan is the center where our most clicks are because I’ve done a lot of word of mouth type advertising here,” he said.
“But I have people clicking in from Texas, California, all over the Coasts and the Southeast now. I’m seeing it grow every day and it’s really just through word of mouth and social media.”
Schlicher, whose current primary job is as a partner in a Saline technology firm, said he hopes to possibly branch out of the virtual world in the future.
“The name ‘I Buy American Store’ explains exactly what it is and it gives the consumer the idea that this is not about a single product, but a storefront where you can find whatever you need,” he said.
“Eventually we could have a physical brick-and-mortar ‘I Buy American Store.'"
Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2