MARVIN WEINBERGER, 59, of Havertown, is a serial entrepreneur and inventor whose latest venture is American Certified. The online retailer, which launches May 15 from co-working space in North Philadelphia, hopes to increase consumer awareness to "buy American" while encouraging the resurgence of American manufacturing. He self-funded the startup with $500,000 beginning in early 2013.
Q: The biz model?
A: We're an Amazon associates store. We contract with them and customers will come to our store and select a product. Amazon pays us commissions based on products our customers buy, and Amazon handles the billing and customer service.
Q: Value proposition?
A: I don't think anybody has tried to build as large and technically advanced associates store. We'll launch with 1.5 million products, which we hope to grow. We've screened all information about products and manufacturers. You can search products made locally or which are "green."
Q: How's the commission structure work?
A: It tops out at 8.5 percent and our [biz] model is predicated on that number.
Q: How do you know a manufacturer is U.S.-based?
A: We're presuming if in the product description on Amazon a manufacturer says "made in America," it's at least partially made here. We'll have free certification for each product to indicate if it's entirely made, mostly made or partially made in America, honorable mention for U.S.-designed stuff made overseas.
Q: Have you done focus groups of potential shoppers?
A: We surveyed 1,000 people from diverse backgrounds. We found on average 79 percent said they'd prefer to buy American, 80 percent said they'd spend more, 40 percent would pay 10 percent more and 4.5 percent would pay 25 percent more.
Q: Your competitors, and what differentiates you?
A: Brick-and-mortar stores all over the country sell U.S.-made products. There are a few online stores, but the selection is small and they don't have the complexity of search we'll have or certification.
A: 10, seven full-time.
Q: Biggest challenge?
A: Screening Amazon's product base to find those made in the U.S., collating them in one place, creating a first-class search interface and a professional e-commerce environment.
Q: 2014 revenue target?
A: Based on our assumptions, starting with the 4.5 percent who are willing to spend 25 percent more for American-made, our goal is 50,000 committed [repeat] customers. A repeat customer is someone who spends $300 a year. The average Amazon customer spends $600.