Photo Courtesy of Martha StewartIndependent artisans, cottage businesses and small-town U.S. entrepreneurs are having their day—actually, make it two days—in the spotlight October 17-18, 2012, with the inaugural Martha Stewart Presents American Made live event in Grand Central Station, Manhattan.
Hosted by none other than Martha Stewart herself, the event honors 11 small businesses that exemplify the best of American Made, in sectors including gardening, new media, arts, non-profit, small farming and artisan products. Ten of the honorees were selected by Martha Stewart Living editorial team, and each won $5,000. One Audience Choice Winner, Brian Howell of Bee Man Candle Company, won a $10,000 prize.
In keeping with the spirit of American Made, the main event is open to the public. Anyone passing through Grand Central is welcome to taste artisan delicacies at the American Made Café—featuring Bouchon Bakery, CJ Olson Cherries, Frog Hollow Farm and 20 other artisan food producers—or stop by the Our Finds shop or the Make and Give crafting area, where Martha Stewart Living editors lead simple crafting projects like those that feature in the pages of the magazine.
Workshops and intimate panel discussions are open to the public by advance reservation, and featured inspirational American thought leaders ranging from Calvin Klein and Tory Burch to Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
This may be a new high-water mark for the next coming of American small business—and who better to lead it than Martha Stewart, along with her editorial team, who all identify personally identify as small-town natives?
“We are experts at recognizing a great idea, even if it’s not perfectly formulated,” says Martha Stewart Living Editor-in-Chief Pilar Guzman. Guzman, the rest of the editorial team, and Stewart herself seek out and review thousands of small businesses and products, both in the course of the American Made process and in the day-to-day operations of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. They look for “the germ of a great idea, and the belief in the person, that they have enough passion,” says Guzman.
Behind the Scenes of American Made: A Q+A with Martha Stewart.
How were you personally involved in finding this year’s crop of American Made honorees?
Martha Stewart: Oh, I had a say in every single one of them! I went through reams and reams of files, over and over. We all sat in a room, and really it was a joint effort. It was a good effort—lots of fun. And there were many worthy candidates. Many more than you can imagine.
Why is it so crucial in your eyes that Americans get back to buying from artisans and growers in their own backyards?
MS: Because it’s one way to start growing American business, and to start growing the number of jobs in this country. If we encourage the handmade, the homemade and the entrepreneurial, we will have a more lively workplace. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for life.
What labeling should a consumer look for in the grocery store to identify locally, naturally produced products?
MS: It’s hard to find labels on a lot of locally grown stuff. There might be, maybe, a big sign saying “Locally Grown” or “Organically Grown” or “Sustainably Raised.” Not everything’s labeled such. But if you look at a case of peaches, you can see where it’s from. It says “Product of…” If you care, you have to look. I look.
For the consumer who wants to support local growers and artisans, what are three shopping habits you'd recommend?
1. Shop local. Shop farmers market, shop organic
2. Look. For example, when shopping for vegetables and fruits, look for signs that say sustainably/organically grown.
3. Make time. If there’s a farmers market, make time on that day to visit the farmers market. I make sure that I have 15 minutes on Saturday to go to the John Jay Homestead near my house and buy organic. I know a couple bread-makers there, so I’ll buy local bread that I like. It’s fitting all those things into your schedule that indeed makes a difference.