MIKEE SHATTUCK is strictly into local shopping. Emphasis on "strictly." A lifelong entrepreneur whose professional background covers everything from selling rocks as a kid to being a retail operations manager, Shattuck has just launched Portland's Own (portlandsown.org), an ambitious online store trafficking high-quality goods that are designed and manufactured in Portland.
To take it a step further, Shattuck is also donating one-third of the gross profit of every sale to a local charity that rotates each month, and the website boasts a "monthly feature," in which he commissions local graphic designers to make a logo that is locally screenprinted onto both a T-shirt (constructed locally at the Portland Garment Factory) and onto a bamboo Plywerk panel (a local signature), modeled by a local person of influence, and photographed by a local photographer. That too goes to benefit the monthly local charity, which receives $7 from each purchase of the monthly special. Local, local, local.
At its heart, Portland's Own is a relatively simple premise, and its philanthropic bent conjures precedents set by companies like Toms (which, if you have been living under a rock, donates a pair of shoes for every one it sells, which sounds nice until you realize how quickly they fall apart even on multi-shoed hipsters, much less a kid who wears them up and down unpaved roads every single day). Shattuck's model also requires a significant amount of energy, coordinating a host of people for its monthly projects, and any online retailer has to go the extra mile in their marketing strategy to attract and retain the attention of customers without the physical reminder of brick and mortar.
One major advantage is that Shattuck has managed to assemble an impressive roster of products. Portland design watchers will recognize brand names like Make It Good women's apparel, Pigeon Toe Ceramics, Seaworthy and Stone & Honey jewelry, Studio Olivine paper products, wallets and bags from the Good Flock and Vanport Outfitters, and leather goods from Wood&Faulk. Likewise, Portland's Own's first monthly feature, benefiting Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East, came out with guns blazing, the first batch a veritable who's who of Portland cool kids: Kicking it off with a T-shirt design by white-hot young design team OMFG Co. kind of sets a tone, and he also landed Koi Fusion owner Bo Kwon to be the first model, shot by popular fashion photographer Lavenda Memory. Add the aforementioned product tie-ins with Plywerk and the Portland Garment Factory, and you've got a pretty formidable team of talent, especially for a guy that until now has been largely off the radar.
"I am no one and I have no reputation," Shattuck admits with a hint of glee in his smile, attributing part of his drive to the fact that he skipped the "four-year party" of college in favor of diving straight into the workforce. His excellent curating is, he says, just the result of relentless research combined with a frustration that access to locally manufactured products has had a slower growth than that of, say, food. He bears a particular loathing toward the Made in Oregon store, notorious for its dated merchandising and lack of interest in the city's vibrant community of up-and-coming makers, despite a name that suggests that should be its very raison d'être. He wants to make it easier to show the average person how to access local goods, and sees the shift toward doing so as a way to get the country out of its recession. And he's not shy about being completist at the task, wanting every aspect, every garment in every photograph, to be 100 percent a product of Portland.
"The only way to get everyone in the city aware is to involve everyone," says Shattuck, who threatens that "If you are anyone with social influence, I am going to get you to model on the website." Up next month are the Voodoo Doughnut guys, and Shattuck's got designers like Lloyd Winter, BT Livermore, Nicole Lavelle, and Jolby lined up for the coming months. He's also been producing short profile videos featuring the participants, easily shareable, bite-sized tools that make it easy for featured artists to get the word out on their own networks, and a smart way to cover a lot of marketing ground efficiently.
Shattuck dreams of being able to set up this program in "every major city in the United States in the next three years," a lofty ambition if there ever was one. He'll still need to work out the dynamics involved to keep that money flowing back into those other communities, though—his criticism of an entity like Etsy, which connects small producers with an international customer base, is that it ultimately funnels money back to New York City, where Etsy is headquartered. In his model, it's important that all the benefit remain in the same community that each maker comes from.
Like any new venture, Shattuck's project will sink or swim, but if anyone's going to make it work, he has the drive to do so.