Local Women Make Clean Creed to Shop Small

‘We have something different’ for shoppers looking to buy responsibly for the holidays

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and it’s certainly the case for a group of women who wanted to shop small and responsibly, but were having a hard time pinning down exactly where one can do that.

Amy Osteen and her friends weren’t on the front lines, really, but wanted to do something that would make an impact on people that were affected by the pandemic. They landed on shopping small – doing most of their purchasing of everyday items from U.S.-owned small businesses, who have taken a hit.

“Unfortunately, shopping small wasn’t as easy as we thought,” Osteen said. “We spent hours upon hours researching companies online to find products where the bulk of the money would go back to U.S.-owned small businesses.

“We were only limiting ourselves to products where the bulk of the money from the sale goes to a U.S.-owned small business with under 50 employees.”

And even with those parameters, it was difficult to shop, Osteen said.

“Because small businesses are run by regular people – not by algorithms,” she said. “Small business products get lost in the big-budget advertisements, complex search algorithms, and worldwide content churned out from the big boys.”

So Osteen, her mom Elaine, and her friend Valerie Dillon, who lives in Highland Park, decided to form CleanCreed.com, designed to help consumers intent on being intentional with their shopping dollars. Another friend, Mai Caldwell, a Preston Hollow resident, is an advisor.

“We make it easy for our customers to shop U.S.-owned small businesses by categories they believe in – whether that’s woman-owned, minority-owned, family-owned, veteran-owned, disabled-owned, LGBT-owned, or teen-owned.”

Amy Osteen

The Clean Creed the foursome came up with is an acronym: Care about the wellness of small businesses and our communities, Lean in, Environment and economy are two sides of the same coin, Always honor diversity, and Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has (which is a quote from Margaret Mead).

“Amazon is here to stay. So is Etsy. So is Walmart. And every small business should take a hard look at selling on those platforms,” said Osteen.”But we have something different than those platforms. We make it easy for our customers to shop U.S.-owned small businesses by categories they believe in – whether that’s woman-owned, minority-owned, family-owned, veteran-owned, disabled-owned, LGBT-owned, or teen-owned.”

After announcing their plans on Facebook, the fledgling company got another boost – local entrepreneur Kathy Fielder took an interest, and offered to work with them to expand. They’re taking Fielder’s advice, and are planning to launch the site Dec. 1 – just in time for Christmas shopping.

“Kathy saw our Facebook post, loved the idea, and contacted us with her ideas on how to expand what we are doing to include more categories and grow nationally,” Osteen said. “Kathy is one of Dallas’s most respected entrepreneurs, retailers, small business supporters, and a successful women-owned CEO. That made it an easy choice for us to bring her into the Clean Creed fold. No brainer.”

The site is in beta until then, “but we welcome visitors and are adding new businesses,” she added.

Our conversation with Osteen is below. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.

PN: When you all were trying to find small businesses to support, what were some of the things you noticed about the ease (or difficulty) in sussing them out? 

Osteen: After some discussion on how we could contribute during and post-COVID, a few friends decided we could help the most by purchasing our everyday items from U.S.-owned small businesses — to shop small.

Unfortunately, shopping small wasn’t as easy as we thought.
We spent hours upon hours researching companies online to find products where the bulk of the money would go back to U.S.-owned small businesses. We aren’t even limiting products to Made in the USA because we know how hard that is to get that designation. We were only limiting ourselves to products where the bulk of the $$ from the sale goes to a U.S.-owned small business with under 50 employees.

It was difficult. Because small businesses are run by regular people – not by algorithms. Small business products get lost in the big-budget advertisements, complex search algorithms, and worldwide content churned out from the big boys.

Or worse, you can’t get information on the owner. If you do, it leads you down a rabbit hole or to drop-shippers who make you believe they care about the end product but are just white-labeling items.
So the idea of http://www.CleanCreed.com was born.

CleanCreed.com helps customers find great products from U.S.-based small businesses that align with our CLEAN Core Values – the lens through which we evaluate how we operate and which products we list.

Amazon is here to stay. So is Etsy. So is Walmart. And every small business should take a hard look at selling on those platforms.

But we have something different than those platforms.  We make it easy for our customers to shop U.S.-owned small businesses by categories they believe in – whether that’s woman-owned, minority-owned, family-owned, veteran-owned, disabled-owned, LGTB-owned, or teen-owned.

We research small businesses while our kids are on their iPads past screen time alarms. We’re on the phone with small businesses when they yell down the stairs, “What’s for dinner?” We’re reading reviews, checking corporate filings, talking to business owners, and stalking LinkedIn profiles while others are sleeping.

It’s a lot of work. But it’s worth it. Because we all have choices on what we support with our dollars. We started Clean Creed to make those choices easier.

PN: Why was it important to you to highlight women- and minority-owned businesses? 

Osteen: Economic shocks such as COVID-19 have disproportionate impacts across sectors, communities, and individuals. This is especially true for women-owned and minority-owned U.S.-small businesses.  People of color are about 40% of the population, but only 20% of the nation’s 5.6 million business owners with employees. Women are 51% of the U.S. population but only 33% of business owners with employees, a disparity ratio of 65%.

We’re all women at Clean Creed. And I’m married to a bi-racial man – who happens to be a very talented eCommerce director. Those categories are what we know first-hand, so they are important to us. But starting Clean Creed also highlighted the other categories of small businesses in the United States that have real needs as well.  

PN: How do you determine who is included on the site?  

Osteen: 1. Qualification: They must be a U.S.-owned business with no more than 50 employees.  Why? Because the average small business has eight employees, and 98% of all small businesses had fewer than 50 employees.  To fall into a category or multiple categories, they must certify to 51% U.S.-owned ownership in that category.  

2.  Values: Their values must align with our CLEAN Core Values. 

3. Desire: They must want an online presence. In March, small business owners braced for a few weeks of financial pain. But with the pandemic — now in its ninth month — many small businesses are still operating at limited capacity or have shuttered completely. Not every business will be willing — or financially able — to pivot to selling online, but for those that have the desire, we want to help.

No one has all the answers – not the largest of the large companies or the most established entrepreneurs. No one knows what they’re doing. Especially now. And while the “not knowing” can be frustrating, it’s the uncertainty that makes our journeys so beautiful. 

We’re here to help small businesses with that journey. 

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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