Behind every small-business owner lies a story of inspiration. For Charlotte resident Daniel McCready, the journey began on the most unlikely of days – Sept. 11, 2001.
McCready, a graduate of Myers Park High School, is founder of This Land ( thisland.com), a retail website that sells handmade products – all made by American craftspeople. But on that fateful day 13 years ago, when terrorists attacked without warning, McCready was a freshman at Duke University, hoping to one day land a career in consulting, or maybe banking.
The events of 9/11 began to change all that, he said.
“My country was embroiled in two wars,” he recalled. “I didn’t see many people from Duke going into the military. I felt like it was a place where I could make a contribution, and folks were needed at the time.”
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After graduation, along with a friend, McCready joined the Marine Corps. He found himself at age 23 in Iraq, a captain leading a platoon of 65 people into deployment. He came out after 4 1/2 years and enrolled in Harvard business school, where he earned an MBA.
Corporate life was not to be for McCready. After about a year at a major consulting firm, he quit. He said he found the work unsatisfying. He also missed the “mission” he felt as a Marine, he said.
“The Marine Corps is really a special organization,” he said. “There’s a focus on the realness and authenticity. You can’t step in front of a group of Marines to lead somebody into combat operations and be faking it. They are going to see through it.”
The only thing McCready knew for sure, he said, was that he wanted his work to matter, to somehow make the nation better, stronger.
He said his “aha moment” came while driving through the Kentucky countryside on his way to a wedding. Gone were the mom-and-pop stores he had expected to find, nearly all replaced by big retail chains.
McCready said he decided soon thereafter to build a website that would sell the works of some of America’s top artisans, and he began scouring the nation to “curate” some of the products his website would carry – a “Greatest Generation” carryall made of canvas and leather ($264), a forged steel bottle opener crafted by an Ohio blacksmith ($55), dinner plates baked in a wood-fired kiln ($56 each).
McCready said the site went public in early 2014 and he began marketing it in earnest just last month – too soon to tell how successful it will be. So far the site displays the works of about 50 artisans. He said he’d like to see that number climb into the hundreds in the coming months and years.
“I love the Americana piece of it all,” he said. “There is integrity in the process of making something by hand that’s really strong – the work ethic, the hard work that goes into it.”
McCready said Americans of his generation no longer will choose between companies that focus on maximizing profits and charity organizations that seek to do good. He said he believes This Land can do both. (A portion of each sale will go to assist veterans, he said, adding that his first contribution will go to Charlotte Bridge Home in September.)
“I want to grow something that could be a great American company one day with a set of values that I appreciated out of the military,” he said. “The companies that are here and last ought to be doing something good that people care about.”