Responsible Sourcing In China & Beyond

Barebones started as a philanthropic side project in Robert Workman's garage in 2014. With a small, excited team, innovative product ideas, and relationships established with suppliers, the company took off, flourishing into what it is today. Of course, that’s the short story.

When telling the story of how a company started, suppliers are often left off the list. As a B Corp and philanthropic-forward company that prioritizes ethical business practices, Barebones is working to tell that story by offering transparency into our relationships with suppliers. Because without them, our products wouldn't exist.

Barebones currently has business relationships with suppliers in China, Pakistan, Taiwan, and India, and we are working on new partnerships in Thailand. Although our company is headquartered in Utah, our business is worldwide. Creating jobs is not limited to the United States borders, and we believe in helping people establish stability and learn new skills all over the world. It is within our brand mission to remove cultural barriers that perpetuate stereotypes about artisans simply based on provenance.

Whether in China, Pakistan, Taiwan, or India…the most important thing behind Barebones’ sourcing & supplier relationships is the people and their ethics. How do they treat their employees? What are the circumstances they work under? We build long-term relationships based on trust and a mutual belief in creating honest, equitable, and sustainable economic growth. Our relationships are with real people, people who become our friends. We always focus on creating opportunities for jobs. Opportunities for relationships between cultures.” - Robert

Over the years, we have had customers ask why our products are made internationally, especially when it comes to production in China. This is a valid question with a complex answer. Simply put, our suppliers build excellent products with accessible pricing models. They are set up to produce at scale, and many product components are sourced locally to their region, which reduces cost, and helps reduce overall carbon footprint. For example, you can read more about the sustainability efforts of waxed canvas goods in Pakistan.

Beyond the tactical reasons, there is also a softer side. Robert has been building relationships with vendors internationally since the mid-80s, well before the inception of Barebones. They are beyond work confidants. They are friends. They are family.

“We have strong friendships in China because I have been going there since 1986. I’ve worked with the same families for 25-30 years. I’ve watched them grow from 10 to 1,000 employees. That creates a bond and a friendship that reaches beyond any national politics. When we work with international partners, we act as silent diplomats.” - Robert

Forming Friendships: BD & Robert

Before the inception of Barebones, Robert had a career with Circuit, a brand renowned for its crafting technology and materials for the DIY community. Building upon his successful venture, Robert forged a strong partnership with a man who goes by BD, a key player in materials sourcing and manufacturing processes in China. What set BD apart was his shared commitment to improving manufacturing processes and enhancing the lives of workers.

“I met BD during the Circuit days in the early 90s. I was looking for hemp-carved whittled trinkets. I went to a craft fair in China to find a small company that would have the skills to duplicate my hand carvings. This is where I met BD, his dad, and his uncle. They were stuck in a little corner of the fair. I had an interpreter with me and we became friends instantly. They became my best friends in China. After we started working together, they would come visit my family for the holidays. I would visit them as friends. BD grew up during that time and ended up moving to the United States for his higher education and met his wife here. They have two children who were born here and they have dual citizenship. They have two countries they love.” - Robert

After years at the helm of Cricut, Robert redirected his focus towards philanthropy, aiming to address power issues in underserved communities. Thus, the well-known company Goal Zero was born, providing portable power solutions (and continues to do so to this day).

Despite his achievements, Robert remained steadfast in his mission to foster economic growth in disadvantaged areas. Thus, Barebones emerged. With the help of BD in China, the company was initially focused on sourcing tents for shelter in disaster relief areas. As the brand expanded to include garden tools and lighting, it sought more partners aligned with its values of integrity and sustainability.

“When I was in the arts & crafts industry, BD, and his family became the main suppliers of all our wood products. After he finished his education in the United States, he went back to China and set up an office and distribution center. Our relationship became much closer as I now had an inspection & distribution center that could ship worldwide.

With Goal Zero, BD continued to support us with inspections. However, when I started Barebones he became much more intricately involved, and even now his company still produces our wood products like our Ridgetop Chairs and Folding Tables”. - Robert

Barebones & Buy It For Life

As Barebones expanded, BD became a key partner, thanks to his & Robert’s long-standing relationship. Together, they pioneered the Buy It For Life category, overseeing manufacturing and upholding Barebones' high standards.

What is Buy It For Life?
The "Buy It For Life" (BIFL) category refers to products that are designed and manufactured to last a lifetime or significantly longer than typical consumer goods. These products prioritize durability, quality craftsmanship, and longevity over planned obsolescence, encouraging us to make fewer purchases over time by investing in high-quality items that will not need frequent replacement. BIFL products often come with warranties or guarantees, reflecting the manufacturer's confidence in their longevity.

Transparency & Supporting Local Economies

Our partners aren't just suppliers, manufacturers, or logistics teams. They're investors who hold a stake in Barebones. This drastically improves transparency and accountability and allows for a vertically integrated approach to our business.

Barebones production empowers individuals worldwide, regardless of their origins. With a shared belief in this sustainable supply chain model, Barebones and BD ensure transparency at every production stage.

Despite facing challenges such as relocating manufacturing to different countries for sustainability, Barebones maintains its commitment to supporting local economies. We prioritize avoiding cost-cutting measures that could harm the workforce or the environment. Today, as a certified B-Corp, Barebones continues to be committed to global equality.

“We prioritize value and quality, working with factories that prioritize fair treatment of workers. We ensure gender equality and uphold high working standards. If these factories are not B corp, we help them get there. Anyone can go in and do an inspection. We are an open book….regardless of the country we work in.” - Robert

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