Piper is PROUDLY Made in the USA
It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it’s been a rewarding one, and we’re excited to share a little bit of backstory about how it all came together.
Back in 2015, with $282K in funding and orders from backers around the world who had supported our successful Kickstarter campaign, we partnered with a powerhouse in the Chinese Maker Community – Seeed Technologies. Based out of Shenzen, Seeed delivered top-quality parts, supporting the manufacturing of our Piper Computer Kits as we iterated from V1 and V2. Over time, we became their number one customer! This powerful partnership allowed us to deliver high-quality, well-priced Piper products for years, and we’ll always be grateful for their early support.
As the pandemic hit—with worldwide lockdowns and new tariffs—global manufacturing became a challenge, and unfortunately Piper’s operations with Seeed were no exception. With demand for our products still growing as students began remote learning, our products becoming grounded at different ports around the world meant that they weren’t getting into the hands of the people who needed them.
As a team, we needed to make a change, and we quickly realized this challenge presented the perfect opportunity to pursue a dream our team had always talked about — manufacturing in the USA.
Great concept, difficult to execute right?
Our headquarters is in San Francisco, CA has some of the highest rent in the country, not to mention high salaries and a very high cost of living. How could producing our products in San Francisco ever work?
We didn’t really have an answer to that question when we started manufacturing in our SF office, but as a team of makers at heart, we started figuring it out. We learned to optimize design, production, and quality. We built versions of products, figured out the process didn’t work *just* right, and then built them again. We built exhaust systems, jigs, and assembly lines and ran our laser cutter day and night to deliver products to kids all over the world. In short, we became the makers we inspire Piper students to be — we stepped up to the challenge and figured it out with some creativity and ingenuity.
We’re excited about what we’ve accomplished. We’re proudly made in the USA, and the partnerships that we have created are with some of the best-in-class players in the education technology industry. We want to take the opportunity to highlight a few of them here:
DS Laser Engraving was our first vendor we partnered with to help us scale our wood cutting operations. They are located in Siskiyou County, CA, close to the Oregon border where plywood manufacturing, the largest commodity in our products, is big. Read about DS Laser and their powerful mission statement which focuses not only on great service and products - but aiding reforestation.
"When we produce items for PIPER that are being used in our local schools, we not only feel excited about the work that we are doing, but we also feel proud to be part of an effort that increases STEM activities in our community while promoting products that are made by family businesses in the U.S.A. and especially our county. It is a win-win that is made that much better by helping youth develop skills that will increase their success in the future."
- Sarah, owner of DS Laser Engraving
We also teamed up with Hire-ability in San Francisco, a non-profit located just 4 blocks from Piper headquarters that runs an employee development program. Their programs are funded by the city of San Francisco and are designed to serve individuals who need basic job preparation and paid work experience in a structured group setting. Hire-ability, along with some of our own Piper staff, “kits” our products.
“Hire-Ability has partnered with Piper in an effort to help San Francisco residents with disabilities and/or barriers to employment gain confidence and skills, by assembling components of the Piper products, as a first step toward competitive community employment.”
- Carmen Castorena-O'Keefe, Director of Vocational Services
Oakland, CA based OakLabs is a shop that designs and builds products for startups. Weldon, who started OakLabs, is a teacher and Master Maker and is able to deliver laser-cut wood parts and design services to Piper.
"OakLabs is proud to partner with PlayPiper. Their dedication to supporting local businesses, sustaining local manufacturing, and being 'Made in the USA' sets an example for all American companies.”
- Weldon, Founder and Director, OakLabs
We're building toward the dream that inspired Shree when she founded Piper. Not only are we inspiring kids to become inventors, we are also inventing ways to build a better world by designing and building products in USA. On behalf of the entire Piper team and our partners, thank you for supporting us in making this possible!