TANYA MENENDEZ, MUIR ’09, is revolutionizing American manufacturing. Maker’s
Row, an online company founded in 2012
by Menendez and partner Matthew Burnett,
has quickly become a go-to source for the
maker movement, connecting DIY artisans
to professional manufacturers throughout
the United States. From design, materials
and samples to production and packaging,
Maker’s Row gives entrepreneurs—like
Menendez herself— a safe place to start.
You could say Maker’s Row arose out
of sheer frustration. Menendez had left
a job at Goldman Sachs to help Burnett
manage sales and operations for The
Brooklyn Bakery, a leather goods line he
was getting off the ground in New York City.
A hit with retailers, including Nordstrom
and Henri Bendel, the business needed
to expand, but the pair couldn’t find
manufacturers that fit their needs. After
a particularly grueling day spent literally
going door to door to find an appropriate
factory, they had an epiphany— a one-stop online site where they could look
up manufacturers, identify who could
suit their needs and determine which
ones were more reputable than others.
“We want to break down the barriers
to entry for those who want to manu-
facture items in the U.S.A.,” Menendez
explains. “Access to domestic manu-
facturing should not be this difficult.”
The premise of Maker’s Row is simple:
U.S. manufacturers are listed in a website
directory, available to search by paying
“makers” who have their own product ideas.
Dedicated, searchable profiles allow entre-
preneurs to match themselves with, say, the
best supplier of denim based on location,
cost, quality or a number of other factors.
Makers, in turn, can create their own
profiles, helping factories find them in
a reciprocal fashion. Menendez said
Maker’s Row fulfills a need in the mar-
ketplace, completely transforming the
way goods are produced in the U.S.
“We’ve seen many more original products
come to life,” Menendez says. Over the
past year, they have had more than 2
million designs come full turn and seen
a tenfold rise in the number of factories
catalogued on the site, with representation
of more than 10,000 U.S. manufacturers.
“What’s really cool is that now
manufacturing is more democra-
tized,” she says. “People are making
solutions for their own problems.”
WHEN MENENDEZ discovered that many
first-time business owners simply don’t
know where to start with their investment
in manufacturing, the company implemented the Maker’s Row Academy,
providing email courses in production,
sourcing, the making of a first sample
and quality control.
“The biggest thing we realized we needed
was to provide the education,” she says.
“We’re teaching people not just to make a
“What’s really cool is that
product, but to make a business. I think
[the Academy] reduces the barriers,
because it helps a person get over the ini-
tial hump of being scared to enter the field.”
And that translates to helping a lot
of creative people. “Entrepreneurs are
more likely to be an entrepreneur if
they have at least one friend. We’re
often that one friend,” Menendez says.
While many of their members are
first-timers, the company has discovered
that even larger, established businesses
were having issues finding companies
to work with. Maker’s Row was the
place where Playboy went to find help
for a recent rebrand, and Burberry,
Ralph Lauren and Ikea have all per-
formed sourcing through the website.
Menendez, who completed her degree
in sociology at UC San Diego in just three
years, says one of the key takeaways is
learning how to be not only a consumer
of information but also a maker of in-
formation. This is precisely the premise
behind Maker’s Row—using information
to connect others. And for their efforts
revitalizing domestic manufacturing, in
2014 Menendez and Burnett were named
to Popular Mechanics’ “ 25 Makers Who
Are Reinventing the American Dream.”
In 2015, Menendez also landed a spot
on the “ 30 Under 30” list from Forbes.
“[At UC San Diego] I was able to have
the flexibility to do research and create
my own ideas,” she says. “That was really
helpful in thinking of entrepreneurship.
It’s not just to have an idea, but to have
an idea and to see it through.”
now manufacturing is more
democratized; people are
making solutions for their
— TANYA MENENDEZ, MUIR '09
MANUFAC TURING MATCHMAKER
Sociology graduate Tanya Menendez, Muir ’09, (above) and partner Matthew Burnett (opposite) created an online
hub to connect independent makers with American manufacturers. Photos courtesy Maker's Row.