Frank Russo, former owner of Frank’s Music Box in Trenton, N.J., on the drop in small business confidence.
Kiché Rubalacav and Mariam Bulin-Diarra created the website after Rubalacav, a medical professional, noticed a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) — most of which was made in China — at health care centers at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.
“When we were in the middle of COVID working in the emergency room, there was a shortage of PPE,” Rubalacav said. “All the PPE was made in other countries — notably China — and it became very clear at that moment that we did not have a supply chain that was viable at that moment. It became clear that…we needed to do something.”
Ford Motor operators and assemblers assemble medical face shields. (Ford)
He thought about his “duty as an American” and what he could do to try and help “rebuild the supply chain and create jobs,” so he and Bulin-Diarra created a “platform for American-made products,” including PPE. The website also has a section for local produce, which has yet to be completed but will develop as more suppliers join.
Bulin-Diarra, an entrepreneur from Paris, came up with the idea and worked on the Sell&Buy USA website for about six months before its launch. Both Rubalacav and Bulin-Diarra come from backgrounds that taught them to give back to their communities, they said.
“I came to America to first learn English, and I wanted to learn how to do business and come back to France, but when I [realized] all the people were so adorable and fun, I fell in love with America and San Francisco and decided to stay and start a business,” Bulin-Diarra said.
The two were accepted to this year’s virtual Web Summit — the largest tech conference in the world — which Rubalacav called “a good start.”
The platform still has a long way to go in accumulating businesses and farms that sell U.S.-made goods, but Rubalacav and Bulin-Diarra are confident that the website can grow quickly with more participation. The website already has thousands of views since the first day of its launch.
Businesses have to apply to join the platform so that Rubalacav and Bulin-Diarra can ensure that they make their products in the U.S. The two have already partnered with Etsy, an e-commerce website specializing in homemade and vintage goods, to highlight products from Etsy suppliers on Sell&Buy USA.
“As people prefer cheaper things, everyone is going through China, but American products are not especially more expensive. It’s a misconception of the public,” Bulin-Diarra said.
The goal of Sell&Buy USA, Rubalacav said, is to “restore our country and put our country back in sure footing, economically, with jobs and supply lines so we can have better supply lines if there is another pandemic or another crisis like this.”
“What we want to do is basically be a catalyst for change, offer hope to people who have innovation, who have ideas, who make products that are solid, that are good, that have been vetted on our platform,” Rubalacav said, adding that a larger goal is to strengthen U.S. supply chains and help create more jobs post-COVID-19.
The startup is also considering possible partnerships with Amazon, Wayfair and Hello Fresh.