COMMENTARY: Tariffs Tax American Entrepreneurs

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Every morning millions of commuters hit the streets to start their day. With only 5 percent of people working from home, commuting is part of most Americans’ daily routine. Some are saddled with lunch, a change of shoes and a laptop for the office. On the way out the door, many women grab a handbag or two to carry all their belongings for the day.

I started my company, MinkeeBlue, to create stylish, functional bags for busy women who need to carry a plethora of things to get through the day. Since launching in 2014, MinkeeBlue has continued to grow by extending its product offerings to include backpacks, diaper bags, cross-body bags and tote bags.

But now, unfortunately, I’m in the middle of a trade war that has threatened the existence of my business. Even more daunting is not knowing how long this trade war will last or how the trade policies will affect my business in the future. 

Tariffs are paid for by Americans like me, not people in other countries. We are consumers, entrepreneurs and small businesses. My product was already subjected to high tariffs at 17.6 percent before the additional 10 percent was added last October. A new looming tariff of 25 percent more would kill my business.

When I first started by handbag business, I was adamant about manufacturing a Made-in-the-USA product. I worked with the Department of Commerce’s textiles division to help identify factories and source materials in the United States. We found a handful of factories willing to work with me, but the final production costs plus materials were far too expensive. I simply couldn’t afford to manufacture my specialty bags in the U.S.

I understand that pursuing new trade deals allow American companies to effectively compete with foreign companies, however, I just think the tactics of going about this is wrong. I’m not alone. Tariffs Hurt the Heartland—a nonpartisan coalition representing thousands of workers, businesses and farmers across the country—recently released new data that show a dramatic increase in import tariffs. American businesses paid an extra $3.4 billion in tariffs this past December—significantly more than the $379 million paid on the same products the prior year. In Pennsylvania, where MinkeeBlue is headquartered, businesses paid $91 million in tariffs in December—that’s 10 times more than the previous year. Where is all that money going?

Small retailers like myself are already operating in a very competitive environment. The added unnecessary challenge of tariff increases are troubling and disruptive, interjecting uncertainty in the market. As a minority-, woman-owned business, I hope to continue to grow my brand and inspire others to do the same. The administration should end the trade war and ease the burden of tariffs, so the American spirit of innovation continues to flourish. 

– Sherrill Mosee is the inventor and designer of MinkeeBlue, organizational travel and work bags designed to eliminate the need to carry multiple bags on the go.


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