There’s a game that my husband, Brendan, and I play every time we go to a trade show.
We flip the products over to see where they were made, and usually we see the name of a country overseas, like China or Taiwan. When I ask the sales manager why, I usually get one standard response: “You can’t make this in the U.S.A.”
This has always been interesting to me because I know that you can make a lot out of plastics in the U.S. – my family has been doing it every day for the past 35 years! Not only is it possible, it’s work that has provided for us since my father founded Precision Thermoplastic Components, Inc. in 1982. What started out as a fun little game pushed my husband and me to address what we saw as a real need for even more American-made products. In 2012 we started our company 50 Strong in Lima, Ohio, producing U.S.-made water bottles, bottle cages, and tire repair levers for Walmart’s bike accessories department.
As the brand grew, we were constantly looking to innovate. I began to spend weeks in the housewares aisles of various stores, watching how people shopped and asking about their water bottle must-haves and pet peeves. Our designers took the responses and created a line of the top 10 bottles that folks were looking for. Innovation is at the heart of what we’re doing at 50 Strong, which means we’re dedicated to making smarter products with better manufacturing processes that we engineer ourselves.
When we started the brand, we also started the 50 Strong Foundation, our nonprofit that receives 10% of all sales to fund education for manufacturing workers. It doesn’t matter if these people are going to work for us or some other company; any time we can add skilled workers to the industry is a true benefit for the future of American jobs.
Our family is competitive, and we feel great pride being able to say that we’re making a better, smarter product with great quality at a competitive price. Partnering with Walmart is another big source of pride for us because we know that their commitment to U.S. manufacturing is as real as ours is. When a retailer is willing to develop a team to focus on finding more suppliers of U.S.-made products, that’s when you know they truly care.
The name “50 Strong” stands for the 50 states, and came from our vision to make America stronger by making more of the products that we use here, in America. For every job that we’re able to fill with an American worker, we know there will be a ripple effect throughout that person’s community. Maybe they’re coaching youth baseball, maybe they’re volunteering at church, or maybe they’re just spending more time helping their kids with homework.
The feeling of providing meaningful jobs is hard to put into words, but our mission is simple: When we start making more things in America, it’s a win for our workers, our families, and our communities.